Of all the seasons, Autumn is my favourite, with its vibrant colours, last days of heat and hint of winter. It’s a great time to go Leaf-Peeping as the Americans call admiring autumnal foliage, and of course we have Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night to look forward to. Hallowe’en is synonymous with ghosts, witches, warlocks and pumpkins. And the whole #trickortreat thing has added sweets and door-to-door begging to the mix … When my son was younger we used to do the whole shebang; Alex dressed up as a vampire or skeleton, going round the village streets with fellow ghouls, knocking on doors, holding out a bowl and hoping for some synthetic, rubbery sweets to send them high as kites. Great fun! We carved a pumpkin (never as good as the picture we were trying to copy), inserted a candle and put it in the window or by the front door.
Which left me with a load of fibrousy pumpkin pulp to use up. One year I tried making pumpkin pie, but it tasted disgusting. Gloopy filling with not enough flavour and yes, dear readers, a very soggy bottom. The next year I made pumpkin soup, but again it was quite bland and my son refused to eat it. Not to be put off, the 3rd year I tried soup again and this time, with tips from friends who are much better cooks than me, it was delicious. Here’s my recipe – adapt flavours to suit your own taste.
Ingredients for the Best Ever Pumpkin Soup
1 kg pumpkin cubed
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried chilli
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
1 large potato
1 litre vegetable stock
Crème fraiche/double cream
Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 6/400F/200C/. Crush the spices and chilli with a pestle and mortar; you can use ground spices if you’ve not got seeds but it’s not quite the same. Cube the pumpkin and place on a large baking tray; use two if necessary. (You could add small sweet potato or butternut squash here – just check cooking time.) Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle on the spice mix, stirring around until all the vegetables are coated. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes or until soft but not blackened.
In the meantime, briefly fry the pumpkin seeds in a little oil until they start to pop then set aside. Put sliced onions in a large pan with some more olive oil, add crushed garlic cloves and diced carrot then fry gently for about 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil then turn off heat.
Remove the roasted pumpkin from the oven, drain and add carefully to the hot stock. Taste and add a freshly ground black pepper if needed. To mix, you can use either a stick blender in the pan or a food processor. When ready to serve, pour into bowls, add a swirl of creme fraiche or cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. A chunk of sourdough or wholemeal bread goes brilliantly with this tasty pumpkin soup.