Halloween is approaching and that means it’s time for all things pumpkiny and spooky. This week we are going for the pumpkin and next week will bring the horror. Whether you like Halloween or not, we can all agree that it does a great job at stopping Christmas from sneaking earlier and earlier every year so we should at least be celebrating that – however I have already seen Christmas decorations in shops…. It’s October…
In the UK pumpkins were not traditionally carved for Halloween. People used swedes and turnips and it was only after settlers returning from America were seen to carve pumpkins that the new tradition was created. You have to admit, pumpkins are far easier to hollow out and carve than a turnip… or a mangelwurzel. Pumpkins are now the most popular vegetable to use for carving jack-o-lanterns and can range in size from a tiny thing the size of your fist to vegetables so large that suddenly it makes perfect sense that Cinderella could travel to the ball in one. One tip for carving: don’t cut the top of the pumpkin to hollow it out, remove the bottom. The top of the pumpkin loses its structural integrity when you slice into it causing the jack-o-lantern to rot far faster and collapse in on itself whereas a pumpkin carved out from beneath will last much longer.
When it comes to cooking with pumpkin, the biggest issue faced is that of flavour. Pumpkins are bland. Ways around this include roasting the vegetable to help intensify the flavour, making sure that the pumpkin is super ripe when you use it and packing your pumpkin dish with herbs and spices and seasoning to give it any semblance of flavour. In my recipe, I have used sage, rosemary and thyme (no parsley here because this is not Scarborough). This is a really good ’go to‘ herb mix for lots of things. Rosemary, sage and thyme are classically used as roasting herbs, you can throw them in with your potatoes to infuse them with herby goodness or something like that. I am also a fan of chopping the herbs up super fine and kneading them into bread. This gives an absolutely delicious dough which works amazingly well for savoury sandwiches or even garlic bread!
Back to the pumpkin (because I went a little bit off topic there) and I would like to mention one thing before we get to the recipe: the seeds. If you are cooking with a pumpkin (or carving one), you are going to have to hollow it out. While there is lots of orange gunge there which can be discarded, there are also lots of seeds. These are worth keeping and rinsing off because you can toast them to make a delicious snack (or even a garnish for your finished soup). I would recommend doing this with a little salt or maybe even some cumin if you fancy an extra kick of flavour.
This soup, like most of my soups, is completely vegan so you can serve it to basically anyone. I hope you like it as much as I do!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Work time 10 minutes
1.5kg pumpkin with the top and bottom cut off and the seeds removed
2 red onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary and thyme
4 sage leaves
500ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to gas mark six (200°C).
Chop the pumpkin into eighths and place onto a baking tray.
Chop the onions into eighths and arrange around the pumpkin.
Add the garlic and herbs and drizzle over the oil.
Sprinkle over about a teaspoon of salt and grind some black pepper on top.
Roast for twenty minutes.
Remove from the oven, scrape the softened pumpkin off the skin and tip it into a large saucepan along with the onion, garlic, herbs and stock.
Simmer for ten minutes until everything is soft.
Remove the thyme and rosemary and discard.
Blend the soup until it reaches a velvety consistency. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more stock.
For a silkier soup, blend in another couple of tablespoons of oil or even melt in some butter.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with bread for dipping or roasted pumpkin seeds and chopped herbs. You could even treat yourself and swirl in a spoon of cream for an ultra-smooth bow of soup.
This soup is delicious for lunch or a starter and with such a thick consistency, it holds garnishes and croutons really well (good for pictures really).
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious Halloween cake!