Pumpkin Soups
It seems I've made quite a few pumpkin soups in my time! Probably from having to use up all the leftovers from my many attempts to stuff them with chickens. And not just an unnatural attraction to pumpkins.
Basically, pumpkins disappear from every supermarket on the stroke of Hallowe'en, like Cinderella's coach. But in reverse.
So if you want to be able to cook with them you have to remember to grab then as soon as you see them, or be doomed to endlessly trailing around obscure vegetable shops like a lost Hallowe'en ghost.
Hence the tendency to overstock.
Hence the soups.

Paul Bocuse's Pumpkin Soup
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Paul Bocuse's fantastically rich creamy soup cooked in a pumpkin
I've made this soup a few times over the years now.
I first came across the concept as a passing remark in some cookbook I no longer recall, so it took a bit of experimentation to get it right.
When you do get it right, the soup is delicious, and makes an impressive dish served right out of the whole baked pumpkin.
The thing to avoid though, is too much cheese or too many croutons, which results in the contents setting solid like a cheesy bread-and-butter pudding. Still tasty, but definitely not soup.
I've managed to make this solid soup on a couple of occasions now, and at least once the soup has curdled, possibly due to my attempting to use milk instead of cream. Though it might also have been encouraged by the addition of the ham. Which you could skip if you're feeding vegetarians.

Serves a dinner party!

Cut the top off the pumpkin and set aside. If you make this cut with a locating notch in it the lid will fit back on nice and square. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits of pumpkin. You can roast the seeds in the oven too; scatter them with salt and a little olive oil.

Remove any crust from your bread, cut into 1" cubes and fry in a little butter with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic until the croutons colour up nicely.
Start filling the pumpkin with alternating layers of croutons, gruyère and ham (if using). Season the layers with salt, pepper and a grinding of nutmeg, fill the pumpkin with cream and replace the lid tightly.

Place the pumpkin in an oven dish large enough to hold the contents (in case the pumpkin splits) then bake at 425°F/220°C/Gas 7 for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the pumpkin skin. If it starts to burn then turn the oven down and cook for a little longer.

Serve the soup directly from the pumpkin at table for a fine impression - make sure to scoop some of the pumpkin flesh into each bowl too. Otherwise it isn't really a pumpkin soup at all. Just hot cheesy cream.
Yep, it's delicious. It's not that hard to make, but it can go quite wrong. And it doesn't form part of any diet.

Paul Bocuse's Better Pumpkin Soup
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Paul Bocuse's slightly improved rich creamy soup cooked in a pumpkin
I've finally improved my version of this Bocuse classic, mainly by not putting in quite so much bread and cheese, which tends to turn the soup into a solid mass. Of bread and cheese.
I think the chestnuts are a nice addition too - feel free to add as much stock as you like to thin the soup out, just make sure that when you serve the soup everyone gets a scraping of pumpkin, otherwise they're just eating a bowl of cream!

Serves a dinner party!

Carefully cut the top off the pumpkin to make a lid and and set aside. If you make this cut with a locating notch in it the lid will fit back on nice and square. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits of pumpkin with a serving spoon. Save the seeds for toasting - they can be scattered on the soup to serve too.
Place the pumpkin in an oven dish large enough to hold the contents (in case the pumpkin splits).

Cut little crosses into the flat sides of the chestnuts and put them in a pot of boiling water until the skin softens. I considered roasting them, but they're easier to peel this way, and I wanted them to end up as soft as possible. Take them out one at a time and pop them free from their shells and papery inner skins. Set them aside.
When they're all cleaned, throw away any chestnuts which are brown, mouldy or have gone too hard. Thinly slice the good chestnuts, and put them in a saucepan with as much stock as you like, then simmer for ½ hour or until they are nicely softened and the stock has reduced. I used about 1 pint of stock and milk which I reduced to a half cup, but my soup ended up fairly thick.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to Gas 5/190°C/375°F and bring the rest of your cream to simmering point in a large pot. I measured the volume of my pumpkin beforehand using water so I knew how much cream to buy. Slice the garlic cloves and add them to the cream don't overdo the garlic, but I like a bit in there, grate in nail-sized piece of nutmeg, add some salt and pepper, grate in the gruyére just watch the quantity so as not to overwhelm the soup, and then add the chestnuts with their stock and any extra stock you want to thin the mixture out remember you can always add more stock at the end, but it's hard to take it out.

Fill the pumpkin with your hot cheesy cream fnarr, fnarr put the lid on and bake for about 2 hours or so until the pumpkin flesh is soft.
Keep a close eye on things - turn the pumpkin occasionally, and turn the oven down if the skin starts to blacken.

Now make the croutons and set aside:
Remove any crust from your bread, cut into 1" cubes and fry in a little butter with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic until the croutons colour up nicely.

When the pumpkin is cooked (but before it collapses!) leave the soup for 15-30 minutes for the flavours to develop I turned the oven off but left the pumpkin in there then scatter with the croutons before presenting to the table. Add more hot stock if you think the soup is too thick.

Serve the soup directly from the pumpkin at table for a fine impression - make sure to scoop some of the pumpkin flesh into each bowl too. Otherwise it isn't really a pumpkin soup at all. Just hot cheesy cream.
This version is very good - and seems more reliable than adding layers to the pumpkin. The chestnuts work well, adding an autumnal nuttiness to the mix.
I had an 8lb pumpkin and used 1.5L cream, 200g gruyére and 2 fat slices of bread for the croutons. I simmered a half-dozen chestnuts in a pint of mixed vegetable stock and milk, though that has a tendency to boil over and I'm not convinced you need to use the milk at all. It reduced down quite a bit, particularly if you include the bit that boiled all over the cooker.
I started the pumpkin off at Gas 6, but turned it down pretty soon after.
I also made a half-hearted effort to chop up some of the pumpkin flesh and add it to the cream, but it's hard to do that without compromising the integrity of the shell.

Made for Sara. Not by Sara.
January 2005
Sara's Pumpkin Soup
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A pumpkin soup I made for Sara
My dear friend Sara now lives in the Scottish Borders, in a fine old farmhouse called the Black House, off the national electricity grid, the water supply, the sewage system and the beaten track. About two miles off the beaten track as it happens.

Sara and I rented a flat together when I first moved up to Edinburgh in the 90s, but I don't see as much of her these days. The borders does make a handy stopping off point on trips to and from Bradford, though, and I've dropped in to visit on many occasions returning from Christmas holidays. Especially in company with others of Sara's old friends.
When I made her this soup during one such visit, she was staying in a freezing farm-workers' bunker called Windy Doors, or maybe that's just what we called it.

Serves 6

Thoroughly clean any grit out of the leeks.
Fry the garlic, onions, leeks. Add any spices you fancy. (Sara didn't seem to have any but cumin might be nice, if a bit obvious, or how about some pimenton dulce.)
Some ground aniseed is quite nice too.
Throw in the root vegetables, cover with stock or water and simmer for a while. When they start to soften add the pumpkin and a peeled chopped mango if you like - you can throw in the stone too but don't forget to take it out before you purée it!.
Add the orange juice and Cointreau to taste somewhere along the line too.
When it's all tender, whizz it up to a smooth paste in batches, season with salt and pepper and serve with mozzarella slices floating on top.
It's easier to add the orange juice and Cointreau at the end to get the flavour right. The mozzarella doesn't reheat in the soup terribly well - it goes all stringy.
A pretty simple soup that turned out to be surprisingly tasty.
A splash of buttermilk goes peculiarly well too!

Pumpkin Rice Laksa Soup
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This tasty recipe is borrowed from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners .
It worked pretty well served in a pumpkin at my Pirate Party, even if he is a git:

“If you're feeling a little bit theatrical, feel free to take the lid off the pumpkin,
scoop out the flesh, and serve the soup in the pumpkin shell. Lovely!”

“P.S. If you have a Magimix food processor you can put it to good use for this recipe!
If you don't have one then your pestle and mortar will come in handy instead.”

Serves 6-8

600g/1lb 6oz pumpkin, butternut squash
onion squash or acorn squash, halved, peeled and deseeded.
a small handful of lime leaves
2-3 chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced You'll probably want more chilli and garlic than this!
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled
3 sticks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed
a large handful of fresh coriander, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1 heaped teaspoon five-spice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
olive oil
1 white onion, peeled and finely sliced
565ml/1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
200g/7oz basmati rice
2x400ml tins of coconut milk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 or 2 limes
optional: 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
optional: fresh coconut, grated (Or creamed coconut)
First of all you need to chop the pumpkin flesh into 5cm/2inch pieces. To make your fragrant soup base, first chop, then whizz or bash up the following in you food processor or pestle and mortar until you have a pulpy mix: the lime leaves, chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander stalks, five-spice and cumin. Remove any stringy bits that may remain in the pulp.
You can purée this in a blender if you add enough liquid - oil and lime juice, stock or perhaps coconut milk?
Put this fragrant mixture into a high-sided pan with a little oil and your finely sliced onion and cook gently for about 10 minutes to release the favours.

Add the pumpkin and the stock to the pan. Stir around, scraping all the goodness off the bottom of the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. At this point, add the rice and give it a really good stir. Some of the pumpkin will begin to mush up, but you'll also have some chunks. Continue to simmer with the lid on until the rice is cooked, then off comes the lid. Add the coconut milk, stir again, taste and season carefully with salt and pepper. To give it a bit of sharpness add the lime juice - the amount will depend on how juicy your limes are, but the idea is to give the soup a little twang.

“Serve the soup in warmed bowls or pour it back into the pumpkin shell. If you're going to do this, put the pumpkin shell into the oven to warm it through first. It's a great show-stopper for dinner parties. Finish sprinkled with the coriander leaves, or some extra sliced fresh chilli, or grate over some fresh coconut if you have it.”

The second time I made this we had a left-over chicken to use up so I edged the soup towards Tom Ka Gai by adding some fish sauce when blending the spices, using galangal instead of ginger and adding chicken breast pieces just before the coconut milk.

The result was quite nice, but rather mild for my taste, and too lumpy for Georgina.

Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Fried Rice Balls
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I needed to make yet another pumpkin soup, having bought up a couple of enormous pumpkins before they vanished from the supermarkets just in case, but wanted to get away from the usual Thai-Indian-curry-flavoured versions. So I was planning a more seafood-oriented, less puréed, coconut-milk-free version, using my frozen collection of lobster larry parts to make a strong fish stock.
Unfortunately my cute gluten-intolerant, lactose-averse landlady Aline is now also fish-unfriendly which wrote that version out.
So I made this half-hearted non-Thai version that somehow ended up with lemon grass in it. Which does contribute delightfully to its flavour.
There is no escaping the Thai flavoured pumpkin! At least it's a bit lumpy...

Oh, and if I made this again I'd go to the trouble of preparing some nice vegetable stock - pumpkin really is disappointingly bland.

Serves 8 easily

Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds into a bowl. Wash them and set aside for roasting. Scoop out the rest of the stringy stuff with a big spoon. Cut the pumpkin into halves, or sections, and bake at gas mark 5 for an hour or until soft. Cut off any shrivelled or browned edges, peel, cut into cubes and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sweat the onions until they soften.
Grate the ginger and add to the pot.
Chop the garlic and add to the pot.
Throw in the cognac and flame it off, then the white wine and reduce down.
Transfer to a blender with about 2/3 of the pumpkin and purée. Add a little wine or stock if necessary. Pour back into the pot, season generously with salt (probably 2 teaspoons of salt) and a lot freshly ground black pepper. Add the coconut milk and set to reheat gently over a low heat.
Add the lemon grass stalks and a few bay leaves.
Slice off the corn kernels and add them to the pot.
Halve or quarter the mushrooms and add them to the pot.
Peel the cucumber, cut it into quarters lengthways, cut away the seeds, cut into chunks and add to the pot.
Cut the red pepper into lozenge shapes and add to the pot.
Add the baby tomatoes.
Bring the pot to a gentle simmer but do not boil.
Before serving preferably the next day remove the lemon grass stalks and stir in a bunch of torn basil leaves and a few splashes of lemon juice.

Make the rice balls
Make small crosses in the flat sides of the chestnuts and roast them for 10 or 15 minutes at gas mark 6 until the skin softens and peels open. Peel and chop them finely, or grind them up.
Cook the rice - boil covered in twice its volume of water until the surface craters and dries off, then leave tightly covered over the lowest heat in the world for 20 minutes until tender.
Process half the rice so it goes a bit creamy and sticky. This is hard work - blenders don't seem to like it much because the creamed rice is mostly like glue, but do the best you can. It doesn't need to turn into a paste - just be a bit sticky. Mix the creamed rice with the whole rice, the chestnuts and a little seasoning. Some basil would probably work too.
Form into small balls, the size of ping-pongs. I would have had about 32 if I'd made a full quantity.
Heat a small pot of peanut oil and deep-fry the balls in small batches until the outside turns crispy and some of the grains have browned.
You'll have to keep poking the frying balls with a slotted spoon as they have an unnerving tendency to clump up and stick fiercely together.
Drain on paper towels.

Serve the soup with a few rice balls scattered on the top.
Pretty nice, though you really need to leave it a day for the flavours to mature. It might have been slightly less bland with some stock added to it, but it's really not too bad.
The rice balls are good - and you could pretty much make them with whatever flavours you like (e.g. green curry paste, crushed peanuts, herbs) but they would probably work better with a slightly less thick soup.