The weather suddenly got properly chilly and Autumnal, so much so that we have (reluctantly) had to switch on the heating. It is definitely the time of year for hot drinks, cosy jumpers and hearty soups. Although I do make soup year round, it becomes much more of a staple in the colder months, and I make at least one batch a week; it is so easy to make, healthy, filling and is just the thing to warm you up after a wet, chilly dog walk.
I like my soup with loads of toppings, or bits on the side to dip in, so I went a bit overboard with this spiced roast pumpkin soup and topped it with homemade garlic croutons, feta cheese, cream and crispy fried sage. You can leave out the cream and sage if you like but I do recommend serving it with the croutons and feta; the creamy, salty cheese is delicious with the spiced soup and the croutons provide a nice variation in texture.The croutons are also really easy to make and are a great way of using up stale bread; I used a French loaf, but ciabatta would work as well. The recipe below makes quite a lot of croutons but they keep well in an airtight container and are great in salads as well as on soup.
I roast all of the veg together for an extra depth of flavour, and because pumpkin is easier to peel when it’s cooked. This means that once the veg is roasted there is no more cooking to do – you just peel off the pumpkin skin, squeeze the garlic out of it’s skin and tip it all into a large pan along with the stock and remaining ingredients then blend it until it’s smooth and it’s ready to eat. I spiced the soup with warming allspice, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, I just used a little bit of each as I wanted it to be gently spiced rather than punchy, but feel free to add more to taste. Make sure that you use a variety of pumpkin that is meant for eating, not carving, as although carving pumpkins can be eaten they don’t taste great; you could also use butternut squash instead of pumpkin.
Spiced Roast Pumpkin Soup With Garlic Croutons, Feta & Crispy Fried Sage
- Approx 2kg pumpkin 4.4lb, unprepared weight, NOT carving pumpkin
- 2 brown onions
- 4 garlic cloves unpeeled
- 50 ml olive oil 1/4 cup
- salt and pepper
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock 4 + 1/4 cups
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
- 200 ml full fat milk 1/2 + 1/3 cup
- 2 large sprigs fresh thyme leaves only
- salt and pepper
- 200 g stale french bread 7oz, 1 small baton
- 50 g butter 1/4 cup
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 rounded tsp oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 rounded tsp salt
Crispy Fried Sage (optional):
- sage leaves
- vegetable oil
- feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. De-seed the pumpkin and cut into thin wedges, halve, peel and thinly slice the onions and spread the pumpkin, onion and unpeeled garlic over a large baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; rub the oil in so that everything is coated. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning occasionally, until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Peel the papery skin off the pumpkin (it doesn't matter if you don't get it all) and place the flesh in a large pan along with the onion. Squeeze the garlic out of the skin into the pan; add the vegetable stock, spices, milk and thyme and use a stick blender to blend the soup until it is completely smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper and add more spices if required.
To make the croutons, turn the oven down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a large roasting tin with greaseproof paper.
Chop the bread into small dice and tip them into the roasting tray. Place the butter, oil, garlic, oregano, pepper and salt in a small pan and heat until the butter has melted. Pour evenly over the bread and toss together until well coated; spread the bread in an even layer over the tray.
Bake for about 20 minutes until crisp and golden then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the crispy fried sage (if using), pour enough vegetable oil into a non-stick frying pan so that it is at least 1cm deep then heat until the oil is very hot. Place some kitchen roll on a plate. Fry the sage leaves for a couple of seconds then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on the kitchen roll to drain. Don't fry the leaves until they go brown or they will be bitter.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of cream, some crumbled feta, croutons and some crushed fried sage.