“Only the windows of the butter, egg and cheese shops have kept their character, and on the pavement just beside the door one can still admire the giant pumpkin with gaping sides squatting on its wooden stool and seeming to say to passers-by, ‘why not make some pumpkin soup? And you will need some milk for it too. Come inside and buy some.’
Certainly in my young days there was no wooden stool. The pumpkin was balanced on top of two other uncut pumpkins which were the rendezvous of all the dogs in the neighbourhood who stopped there…for a moment or two. The stool is a triumph of modern hygeine.”
Cooking with Pomaine, Edouard de Pomaine
This summer I organised to go and see the Dutch National Ballet performing Cinderella. As luck would have it, that day there was a tube strike in London, and arriving into London from the country was a nightmare. Dropped off in the Mall I had to sprint the last few hundred yards…to no avail. Arriving seconds after curtain up, I had to wait with a hundred other exhausted, sweating, shaking souls in the foyer until, half an hour later, we were allowed in, to stand in the back until the interval.
There was no fairy godmother, no ugly stepmother, no prince… instead there seemed to be two delightful young men, three more, very muscled, men, and an elegant, evil lady – perhaps the bad fairy from Sleeping Beauty. Somehow I had landed in the wrong fairy tale….but then I saw the pumpkin. All was well. You can see some of Christopher Wheeldon’s interpretation of this ballet below.
This is a satisfying pumpkin soup, warmed by the roasted flavours and the cinnamon and chilli. The crispy bacon gives a contrasting texture to the silky thick liquid. In general pumpkin is pretty uninteresting – this soup is the best way I’ve yet found of using it, and in fact you can use any squash. One of Allan Picket’s favourites is the Harlequin squash which he recommends “because it’s versatile, and the shell can be used as a serving bowl for soups and risottos if scooped out carefully” (Desert Island Dishes)
Fancy being fancy? Chef Josh Overington at Le Cochon Aveugle in York serves his pumpkin soup with a nasturtium-fragranced ice cream.
Allan Picket, head chef at the Plateau Restaurant, serves a Harlequin squash soup with Fourme D’Ambert croutons. He explains the acidity of the cheese works well with the sweetness of the squash. He suggests slicing a small-diametered French baguette, placing the slices over a baking tray, drizzling with olive oil, and baking at a low heat for several minutes. Once cool, crumble the cheese over them, and serve either on the surface of the soup, or on the plate beside it.
Recipe for roasted pumpkin soup with bacon
- 1 pumpkin, about 1 kg/2.2 lbs – Crown Prince which is sweeter and less starchy than many is a good choice
- ⅓ cup/80ml olive oil
- 1 onion,
- 1 medium potato
- 3 cloves of garlic – crushed with some smoked salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp sweet, smoked paprika, or ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper, or Byadgi chilli
- 4¼ cups/1 litre hot chicken stock
- 1 bunch of coriander
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 12 rashers/250g pack thin streaky bacon
- bunch of coriander
- four generous tablespoons thick yoghurt
- smoked salt and indonesian black pepper
- you can add feta to the bacon above
- you can fry some breadcrumbs with chopped sage
- you can use crispy fried sage
- crispy fried chorizo
- blue cheese croutons as described above
- Heat the oven to 220ºC
- chop the onion, peel and seed the pumpkin and peel the potato and cut it into small cubes
- mix the pumpkin up with a couple of tablespoons of oil and generous amounts of salt and pepper, put in a greased roasting tin and roast for about an hour
- fry the onion in the rest of the oil in a big saucepan until translucent – about a quarter of an hour
- add the chilli, the cinnamon, the garlic, the potato and more generous amounts of seasoning and fry together with the onion for about five minutes, so that all the flavours meld
- take off the heat and wait until the pumpkin is done, then add that and the stock and simmer for twenty minutes (if you have an aga put it in the simmering oven).
- and meanwhile fry the bacon until crispy and chop
- once the you have simmered the soup use a stick blender to blend the lot.
- add the yoghurt, the coriander and the maple syrup and stir
- serve, garnished with the bacon, and with lots of warm, fresh wholemeal bread
This post is dedicated to Caterina Zucca