I’ve become a bit obsessed with pumpkins since the start of autumn. Their golden flesh is so versatile that I’ve managed to incorporate it into nearly every recipe I’ve cooked over the last few months, from Thai coconut soups to pesto pasta, macaroni cheese to breakfast scones. I love their dense, almost fudge-like texture, and the way they roast into warming caramelized perfection in no time at all. Their slight sweetness pairs well with so many ingredients, particularly salty things like bacon and cheese, although it is also fabulous with sturdy winter herbs and a variety of spices, piquant smoked paprika being one of the best.
There are so many varieties of pumpkin available, and they all have different flavours and textures. My favourite is the Crown Prince, which has a gorgeous slate-blue skin and rock-hard flesh that softens to melting perfection in the oven. Sometimes, however, you end up with a slightly more watery specimen (like the classic Halloween pumpkin) that is less likely to hold its shape during steaming, boiling or roasting. Although less good for salads and more delicate dishes, these pumpkins are perfect for soup.
You can make this soup with any pumpkin or squash, because everything gets blitzed together at the end. It’s perfect for using up a carved Halloween pumpkin, once you’ve scooped out the seeds, or any other variety. Roasting the pumpkin first intensifies the flavour, giving lovely sweet caramel notes, particularly when you add herbs and some punchy JustIngredients rosemary and garlic salt. Add the tender pumpkin flesh to a base of onion, garlic and carrot, combine with some flavoursome stock and fragrant herbs, and you have a sweet, warming winter soup.
Sage and nutmeg are the perfect partners for pumpkin, as shown to beautiful effect in the classic Italian dish of pumpkin ravioli with sage and brown butter. Crispy sage leaves, fried in butter, make a gorgeous garnish for this soup, and a warming note of nutmeg runs throughout. I also finish this off with a dusting of smoked paprika, which tempers the sweetness of the pumpkin.
Roast pumpkin soup with crispy sage (serves 6):
- 1.5kg pumpkin (prepared weight), cut into large wedges and seeds removed
- Olive oil
- 2 tsp sea salt (garlic salt is good if you can get it)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 15g butter
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 20g butter
- 18 large fresh sage leaves
- Smoked paprika
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put the pumpkin wedges in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter with salt, some pepper, the rosemary leaves and the smoked paprika. Roast in the oven for around 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pumpkin is tender. Leave to cool.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil and the butter in a large saucepan or stock pot. Sauté the onion, garlic, bay leaves, carrot, rosemary, thyme and sage over a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until soft and starting to turn golden.
Peel the skin off the cooked pumpkin and discard it. Break the flesh into pieces, then add to the pan with the herbs and vegetables. Cook for another minute or so, then pour in the stock and add the nutmeg. Simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until everything is tender.
Leave the soup to cool for around 15 minutes, then blitz in a blender (you may need to do this in batches) until completely smooth.
To serve, reheat the soup in a large pan. Taste and check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, nutmeg or paprika if necessary.
In a small pan, heat the butter until it starts to turn golden and smell slightly nutty. Add the sage leaves, and cook for a couple of minutes until they start to crisp up. Divide the soup between 6 bowls, placing 3 sage leaves in each bowl (drizzle any leftover sage butter over the top). Sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve with crusty bread.