No. 3 – Soup!

Autumn is well and truly here, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of tights and wooly jumpers, crunchy falling leaves and comfort food.

OK, ok, let’s take those rose tinted spectacles off for a moment… autumn also means runny noses and chesty coughs, at least in my house! I’ve never been so grateful for my middle child’s super enhanced immune system, bolstered by a tendency to lick dirty surfaces and eat food from the floor, whatever it’s condition and wherever we are.

So I’ve only had 3 menfolk suffering from man flu for what feels like weeks, instead of a possible 4. Obviously the fully grown man has suffered the worst.

What could be more restorative and nourishing when recovering from a cold, than a piping bowl of soup, hot enough to steam up your glasses and soothe your throat? I’m not fussy when it comes to soup; leek and potato, carrot and lentil or brocolli and stilton – I’m ready to dive in to them all, as soon as the clocks go back and hibernation mode sets in. Plus, sometimes I don’t want to bother with chewing, but just want to gulp my food down. There I’ve said it out loud!

My Mum loves to make soup. Her approach is very much a random “what’s in the fridge that’s a bit past its best” + lentils + stock = newest soup creation. There have been some tasty results over the years, and others that were less successful (beetroot, cabbage and brocolli anyone?). For me, a good soup needs to be based on a fibrous vegetable or two, with the addition of spices, and blended to a creamy velvet like consistency.

Whilst in search of soup inspiration, I called into nearby Sebastian’s (@sebastianssharrowvale, 345 Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield) for lunch. They had a squash, coconut and ginger soup on the menu plus I added a side salad.  Let me tell you, mmmmm. So good!!

The soup was sweet, perfectly spiced, and comforting, like a hug in a big mug. Decadently thick and creamy, it was served with crunchy seeds on the top. The salad was equally impressive; crispy fresh vegetables, creamy butterbeans and a light herby pesto dressing.

Whilst I was eating, homemade banana cakes were in the oven, filling the whole cafe with the gorgeous scent of sweet baking. I left, stuffed, but more importantly totally inspired to try and match their soup in its squash based beauty. But which squash to go for? We eat a lot of butternut squash in our house already, and our fair share of courgettes too.

With Halloween here, and a glut of pumpkins everywhere, pumpkin soup seemed the obvious choice; autumn happiness in the form of a bowl of orange goodness.

Pumpkins are packed full of vitamin A and antioxidants, are a source of B vitamins and vital minerals, and their seeds are a great source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids, so they are a nutritional powerhouse for eyes, skin and healthy hearts – great for growing kids, but perhaps not their first choice when it comes to a meal.

So, how to transform the novelty Halloween pumpkin into something akin to Cinderella’s coach, in a fairy godmother stylee. This recipe will convert even the most dubious kids (and adults!) out there – I promise!

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Spiced roasted pumpkin soup, serves 5 generous bowlfuls

Prep time: 10 mins (depending on your pumpkin preparation skills)

Cooking time: 1 hour and some time for blitzing

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg of pumpkins flesh ( about 1 medium to large ish pumpkin)
  • Olive oil – a tablespoon, a teaspoon and a drizzle!
  • Dried chilli flakes, a teaspoon
  • Coriander seeds, a tablespoon
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 litre of hot vegetable stock
  • Creme fraiche to serve (optional)

Note: I tried cooking the pumpkin in the stock using a one pan method, but the version below where the pumpkin is roasted in spices in the oven before adding the stock, has a much better flavour imho!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°c (340°f, gas mark 3)
  2. Chop the pumpkin up into rough quarters, keeping the seeds to one side
  3. Lay the quarters onto baking trays and drizzle with olive oil
  4. Grind up the chilli flakes and coriander seeds with a little salt in a pestle and mortar, then sprinkle over the pumpkin (new favourite spice mix for root veg!)
  5. Into the oven to roast for about an hour, or until the pumpkin is soft and starting to caramelise around the edges
  6. Whilst the pumpkin is roasting, chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook in a tablespoon of oil for about 15 minutes, until soft
  7. Clean the seeds in water and pat dry before frying in a teaspoon of oil until they start to pop
  8. Once the pumpkin is ready, add to the vegetables, with the hot stock and blend to a smooth consistency
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the crunch seeds before diving straight in.

I made this for the kids after a chilly long walk up to Forge Dam one Sunday morning. They swirled creme fraiche into the top and added a generous handful of crunchy seeds. Perfect for filling hungry tummies and defrosting little fingers. Our resident carnivore shredded in a hot from the oven chicken breast and said “hey its not bad this!” High praise indeed!

Still got scary faced pumpkins to use up? How about some of these recipe ideas:

http://madeleineshaw.com/recipes/warming-pumpkin-and-butterbean-bowl/ – the pomegranates will add a tasty burst of sweetness to this bowl of deliciousness

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/547239/pumpkin-bread-loaf – the perfect autumnal after school treat!

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetable-recipes/pumpkin-chickpea-coconut-curry/ – pumpkin and curry, what’s not to love? This recipe has got post fireworks display tea written all over it!

I also discovered that pumpkin that has been simply roasted in the oven until soft and then blitzed until smooth makes great weaning food. I’ve just started weaning the baby and he’s loved chowing down on pumpkin along with the rest of us.

Thanks to fellow blogger @mylittlesleeper for the awesome all-American pumpkin pictures!

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