In the run-up to Halloween, jack-o’-lanterns are such a familiar sight outside homes that it’s all too easy to think of pumpkins as purely decorative, and overlook their culinary uses. One of the most delicious ways to enjoy these marvellous yet underappreciated members of the squash family is to make a simple, seasonal pumpkin soup.
Giant field pumpkins grown for carving tend to taste watery and bland. When you want to cook pumpkin, look instead for smaller, denser, more flavourful varieties. Pumpkins intended for cooking are a diverse bunch – you’ll be spoilt for choice. For pumpkin soup recipes such as ours, the silver-skinned Crown Prince, pinkish Galeux d’Eysines, speckled Carnival and deep orange, delightfully named Cinderella pumpkin (also called Rouge Vif d’Etampes) are excellent choices. The highest quality, tastiest pumpkins will feel firm and have no blemishes.
Pumpkin soup is not only wonderfully warming but also nutritious. That’s because pumpkins are a great source of potassium (vital to the cardiovascular system), bone-strengthening calcium, beta carotene (which your body converts to immune system-boosting vitamin A) and vitamin C (needed to help protect cells).
If you feel daunted by the idea of preparing pumpkin, don’t worry. With the right technique, it’s straightforward. Begin by washing the pumpkin and drying it thoroughly. For extra stability, cover your chopping board with a damp tea towel before topping and tailing the pumpkin. Next, remove the skin with a knife or peeler and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, so that you’re left with just the flesh. To really get the most out of your pumpkin, you can wash, dry and toast its seeds to make a crunchy topping for the soup.
Pumpkin has few calories: only 26 per 100 g, on average (compare that to 77 for the same amount of potato). To make this pumpkin soup more indulgent, swap the milk for cream – but add it after the soup has been cooked and blended or else it’ll curdle. If you follow a vegan diet, it’s worth noting that unsweetened soya milk and plain soya yogurt are good substitutes for the milk and crème fraiche garnish. The tart flavour of crème fraiche (or Greek yogurt, for a lighter option) and plain soya yogurt creates a pleasing contrast with pumpkin’s sweet, nutty taste.
Our recipe makes enough pumpkin soup to feed the whole family or your kids and their friends before they go trick-or-treating!