I grew up with Asian soups, which are mostly broth-style concoctions with various things floating in them – from the standard pork and prawn dumplings or chicken to the weird and wonderful unnameable items that are considered to be the ultimate panacea for everything from stomach aches to back pain.
There is pretty much only one Western-style soup my mother makes, and that is pumpkin soup. It’s a hearty, filling winter wonder that I think is fitting for my American buddies who’ll be tucking into all sorts of Thanksgiving goodies very soon.
In my wholly unbiased and humble opinion it is the finest pumpkin soup you will ever taste, anywhere, and it ridiculously healthy because unlike most pumpkin soups it has no cream and no sugar, instead relying on the smooth texture and natural sweetness of the pumpkin. Go forth and try it! Wrap yourself in the warm blanket of virtue and congratulate yourself on how healthy you’re being.
For the vegetable stock:
Two-thirds of a leek
Half an onion
2 sticks of celery
4 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
For the pumpkin soup:
Half a kilo butternut pumpkin
Half a kilo paquito pumpkin
One-third of a leek, sliced
Half an onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Make the vegetable stock by placing all the stock ingredients in a pot, covering with cold water and bringing to a boil, then turning to a simmer for 20 minutes. Heston advises that you should slice the vegetables as thinly as possible to provide as much surface area as you can, but if you can’t be bothered it will turn out just fine.
Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin. The butternut pumpkin in my photo is just over a kilo, and the paquito pumpkin is just under a kilo, and I used half of each. You could simply use one whole pumpkin, but I like the different tastes each pumpkin gives – the butternut has a nutty, robust undertone, and the paquito pumpkin is just a little sweeter and negates the need for you to add sugar.
There is nothing for it but to chop the pumpkins into small pieces, removing the skin as you go. This is a fairly painful process but sadly I see no way around it. Wear your pumpkin blisters with pride.
In a pan over a medium heat, place the onions and leek and cook until they start to soften but don’t brown them.
Add the pumpkin pieces and cook for 7-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the vegetable stock, reserving the liquid. Put the liquid back into the pot and add the chopped carrots, and when the pumpkin and onion is ready, add it to the pot. Cook for 20minutes or until the pumpkin is very soft.
Remove from heat and ladle out a bowlful of the liquid, keeping to one side. You want to hang onto this just in case the soup is thicker than you would like.
A stick blender would be ideal at this point, but I don’t have one, so I just used a hand masher instead – hence the rather pureed look of my soup. It still tasted wonderful. Proof positive that some recipes are extremely forgiving!