Pumpkin soup


So, last night was Halloween. We had bought pumpkins to carve and this one missed out on its moment in the scary  limelight.  Isn’t it beautiful? What a gorgeous blue grey it is. Then inside it looks like this:

pumpkin flesh

The contrast between the blue and orange is amazing. The skin is very tough. I got my knife stuck several times. With it being Halloween, pumpkin soup seemed appropriate. The photo is terrible, because now the clocks have gone back we have a dark house at tea time, but the colour and texture of this soup was amazing too, dark, unctuous and velvety.

Pumpkin soup

As you can see, I served it with chopped crispy bacon and roasted pumpkin seeds.  With the carving of the other pumpkins we have been eating a lot of roasted seeds lately. Butternut squash seeds are delicious roasted like this too. This soup doesn’t need adornment though, it is lovely on its own.

Pumpkins make an awful lot of soup.  I only used half of this pumpkin and it made enough for about eight helpings. Thank goodness for freezers. The rest of the pumpkin will be steamed and pureed and frozen. I plan to try making a pumpkin bread.

½ pumpkin
1 onion, diced
1 apple, cored and chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
water to cover

Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into  a large saucepan and add the onion and cook until translucent. Peel and dice the pumpkin and add to the pan, cook for a few minutes. Add the apple and stir. Add the turmeric and the curry powder and stir well and cook for a few minutes. Add enough water to cover the pumpkin generously and then season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for about twenty minutes until the pumpkin is tender when you insert a knife.

Blend, process or sieve the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve.

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The best tomato soup

We have an abundance of homegrown tomatoes at the moment. Every year at this time I make tomato soup, because, really, is there anything better?

Anyway, yesterday was deemed tomato soup day and we agreed that this was the best tomato soup I have ever made.  It tasted like cream of tomato soup, but no butter or cream had been added.  I can’t really explain where that creaminess came from, other than maybe the roasted garlic, but it was delicious. Roasting the tomatoes and the garlic first makes a big difference to the flavour, so don’t leave this stage out.

Serves 4 or 2 greedy people

500g fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic unpeeled
olive oil
2-3 rashers of bacon
1 small onion or a couple of shallots
550ml (1 pint) vegetable stock


Put the whole tomatoes and the unpeeled cloves of garlic onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil and place in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6) or the roasting oven of the Aga for about 20 minutes until nicely roasted and starting to brown a little around the edges.

In the meantime, slice the onion and dice the bacon and fry in a large pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.

Add the roasted tomatoes, with all the lovely juices, to the bacon and onion and squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and add to the tomatoey mixture.  Add the vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat and whizz with a hand-held blender or in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Place back on the heat to warm through and serve in warmed bowls, with lots of bread for dunking.

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Parsnip, apple and chestnut soup

I was inspired to try my hand at this soup by a visit to a local café yesterday.  I was reading the Christmas menu that I had unfortunately missed, but on it was this soup and I knew I had to give it a go.  We have some parsnips left in the garden and my husband has complained that I haven’t been using them enough so I hacked my way through the frosty soil to get at them.

I have no idea whether it tastes like the soup served at the local café but this is delicious and a very comforting dish and you can taste all three of the main elements quite distinctly, although I may use a little less apple next time I make it as my version was a little too apple-y.  I have adjusted the recipe below accordingly so I hope yours won’t be.

1 large parsnip (about 300g), peeled and chopped into chunks
1 small Bramley apple (or half a large apple), peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
1 onion, diced
1 small potato, peeled and cut into chunks
100g roasted chestnuts, plus a few extra for slicing to serve on top of the soup (I use the vacuum packed variety for ease)
20g butter and a drop of olive oil
570 ml (1 pint) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp cumin seed
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter with the drop of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onion and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to allow the onion to brown.  Add the parsnip, potato and apple and cook for a few minutes more.  Add the cumin seeds and stir to combine and continue to cook for a few minutes. Season with a little salt. Add the chestnuts and the stock and bring to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid or foil.  Cook over a gentle heat for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  If you are using an Aga, place the pan in the simmering oven for this amount of time. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

Blend the soup either with a hand blender or in a blender or processor until smooth.  Serve in warmed bowls, sprinkled with thinly sliced roasted chestnuts.

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Chicken, borlotti and cranberry soup

I had some chicken left over from a roast we had the other day and I was trying to think of something to do with it.  I had a can of borlotti beans in the cupboard, a swede and some cranberries I bought when they were on special offer the other day, so this soup seemed like the thing we should have for tea.  It was tasty and the cranberries added an interesting colour and a zingy bitterness that added and interesting and good dimension to the soup.  If you have celery or carrots in the house then add some of these; I didn’t have any in the cupboard.

I served it with parmesan croutons which are very easy to make.  Just cube some bread and place on a baking tray with a light sprinkling of olive oil.  Place in a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) for about 7-8 minutes until golden all over.  As soon as they come out of the oven finely grate some parmesan over them so that it melts on contact.

1 onion, sliced finely
100g swede, diced
splash of Marsala or Madeira wine (optional)
1 dessertspoon plain flour
the leftover meat from a roast chicken ( I had two drumsticks left over for this soup)
400g tin of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or any other pulses you may have)
a handful of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
570 ml (1 pint) vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper


Sweat the onion and swede for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and the swede is beginning to take on a little colour. Add the flour and mix well, cook for a minute or so to cook out the taste of the flour.  Add a splash of Marsala if you are using it.  Add the stock and stir well to mix it with the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients except the salt (adding salt will make the bean tough). Cook for about 15-20 minutes on a gentle simmer.  Add salt to taste just before serving.  Serve in warmed bowls with the parmesan croutons or fresh bread.

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Roasted butternut squash soup

The gales are blowing so it has to be time for the ultimate comfort food, a tasty bowl of soup.  This one is delicious and satisfies those hunger pangs. I roasted some unpeeled cloves of garlic with the squash and spread the lovely softened garlic onto my bread to eat alongside which made it even more delicious.

1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 onion, diced
2cm root ginger, peeled and grated
½ tsp cumin seed
300 ml vegetable stock

Place the cubes of butternut squash on a baking tray and sprinkle with olive oil.  Bake in a preheated oven at 200°c (gas mark 6, 400°f) for 15 – 20 minutes until softened and beginning to colour.

In the meantime, soften the onion by cooking over a gentle heat in a large saucepan with a splash of olive oil.  Add the grated ginger and the cumin seeds and cook for a further minute.  Add the roasted butternut squash and the vegetable stock.  Cook over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until the squash is completely tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend the soup with a hand blender or in a blender or processor until completely smooth. Reheat very gently if you need to and serve in warmed bowls with plenty of bread. You can of course add a little cream to the top.

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Chorizo, chickpea and kale

chorizo chickpea and kale stew

I was inspired to make this because I was watching the Good Food channel (of which I watch far too much I admit!) and Rachel Allen made a version in her Favourite Foods programme which was followed shortly after by Market Kitchen and the chef in the market made a very similar version.  I took it as a sign!

I served it with a roast chicken last night and it was good, although it might have been better if I had reduced the tomato sauce a bit more so it was less of a soup and more of a sauce.  You can cook it to the consistency that you think you may prefer by just simmering it for longer if you want it more sauce-y than soupy.

You could substitute the chickpeas for butter beans and the kale for spinach or any other Brassica you have in the house.

1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
A good-sized chunk of chorizo, cubed (I used about 100g)
1 410g tin of chickpeas in water (no salt added) drained of most of the liquid
1 400g tin of tomatoes
kale ( I used about 100g), shredded
feta cheese to crumble over the top


Heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and fry the chorizo until it begins to leach its golden fat, add the chilli and garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, add the chickpeas and a little bit of the water from the tin. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or longer if you would prefer a thicker consistency.  Add the kale and  cook for another five minutes until the kale is tender. Scatter cubes of feta over the top and serve with lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices.

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Ham and pea soup

pea and ham soup

It was my daughter’s fifth birthday party at the weekend and it is a tradition that I cook a large baked ham to slice.  We have a good chunk left over and so last night’s supper was the ham and pea soup in the picture.  If I was better at photography I might have done it justice.  It was really tasty and I made some bread to go with it which I will share with you in another post. The recipe was inspired by a recipe for Green Pea, Ham and Leek soup in the Soups book by Grace Mulligan and Dilwen Phillips in the Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute collection (2002, Simon & Schuster UK).  I replaced the leek with an onion in my version.

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1½ pints (850ml) chicken or vegetable stock
6 oz  (175g) frozen peas
6 oz (175g) chopped ham
2 tbsp chopped mint
olive oil

Heat a drop of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onion and sweat for five minutes until translucent. Add the frozen peas and the stock and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 mins.  Add the ham and simmer for a further five mins.  Add the mint and simmer for two mins. Take the soup off the heat. Blend the soup well with a hand blender or in a food processor. Put the soup back into the pan, check for seasoning ( I doubt you will need salt as the ham is likely to be salty) and reheat gently.  Do not allow the soup to boil or the flavour will be spoilt.  Serve in warmed bowls with lots of crusty bread or croutons.

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Pumpkin and Apple Soup

We planted some pumpkin seeds earlier this year which have turned into monsters and taken over our veg patch.  Not wanting to waste them I came up with this soup, which was delicious.  I have a feeling we will be eating a lot of it…

Pumpkin & Apple Soup

Pumpkins in our garden

1kg Pumpkin/squash
300g apple, peeled, cored and chopped
(I used eating apples as this is what I had available)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 heaped tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin seed
1 pint vegetable stock
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c (400f/ gas mark 6)Cut the pumpkin into slices, removing the seeds.  Place onto a baking tray, season and sprinkle with olive oil.  Roast for 20 mins until soft.  Leave until cool enough to handle and remove skin.  Chop into cubes.

In a large pan, sweat the onions in a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat for five mins. Add garlic and apples and cook for a further five mins on a low heat, making sure that they don’t start to brown. Add curry powder and cumin seeds and fry for 2 mins, stirring. Add the roasted pumpkin and stir well so that it all gets covered in the spices.  Add the vegetable stock and simmer gently for 20 mins.  Do not boil as this will ruin the flavour of the soup.

Take the pan off the heat and blend or sieve the soup.  Serve in warmed bowls with croutons or crispy bread and a few sage leaves that have been fried in olive oil until crisp.

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