Spicy pumpkin soup with chilli croutons topped with crispy onions is perfect for Halloween, Bonfire night or any other wintery cold night -it will warm the cockles of your heart! Serve it up with a hot toddy of cider, orange juice, rum, sugar and a little freshly grated nutmeg-delicious
I loved Halloween as a child despite being completely terrified. I anxiously peered around every corner expecting witches & ghosts (or worse) to appear. I used to try walking backwards to keep a look out but it never really worked out. My heart rate has just gone up just remembering about the spooky parties we used to have and…………I’m still frightened of the dark!
The bright orange pumpkin was the centrepiece so I have used the flesh to make this creamy, silky soup. You can make it as spicy hot as you like or just omit the chilli. I have also added red lentils to make it more nutritious so you could serve it as part of a meal for those that prefer not to eat meat . The homemade croutons make all the difference and I make them a lot with all sorts of soups. Once you have tried homemade ones you will never break a tooth again on the hard, oily ones you can buy. You can leave the chilli out if you wish and just have them cheesy. I make various sorts of croutons depending on the sort of soup I make flavouring them with eg ground coriander, garlic or fennel seeds -just partner them with some sort of strong cheese. Frizzled onions too are a delicious topping-I’m never keen on bought caramelized onions as they are usually too sweet but these are lovely.
I have to admit it is an enormous fiddle to serve the soup in a pumpkin but it looked great in the photo and I have always wanted to try it! If you want to do that you really need a second pumpkin so that you can carve it out more carefully. Make sure that you leave thicker sides to make it more sturdy.
There is something very satisfying about making homemade soup so have a go at this seasonal favourite and don’t turn your back for too long…….
SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHILLI CROUTONS AND FRIZZLED ONIONS
2/3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large pumpkin (approx. 2.7kg) -800g flesh
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
100g red split lentils
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1 ltr vegetable stock (or use chicken)
¼ teasp hot chilli powder –to taste
1 tbsp. lemon juice (from a bottle is fine)
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
For the croutons:
3 slices of white bread
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
½ teasp red chilli flakes
For the frizzled onions:
1 med onion, peeled and finely sliced
A little olive oil
- Prepare the pumpkin, remove the centre with the seeds and the rind and cut into chunks. Heat the oil in a large* pan with a lid. Add the onions & pumpkin and cook until the onions are golden. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a few minutes –taking care not to burn it. Add the lentils, thyme and stock. Bring to the boil.
- Add ¼ teasp hot chilli powder- more if you prefer and the lemon juice. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a little sea salt (remember the stock can be salty).
- Simmer for about 25 minutes until the pumpkin and lentils are soft. Check the seasoning. Leave it to cool a bit before whizzing it to a silky, smooth soup.
- Meanwhile make the croutons: Preheat the oven to a hot 180C, gas 4. Remove the crusts from the bread and cut into small squares.
- Put them in a bowl with the oil and the grated Parmesan cheese and the chilli flakes. Mix them around until they are evenly coated, spread on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes. Check them after 5 minutes – watch them carefully as they BURN very easily. When golden and crispy take them out of the oven and cool.
- For the frizzled onions: Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onions until golden and a little charred. Keep moving them around in the pan.
- When the soup is ready leave it to cool a bit before whizzing it to a silky, smooth soup. Check the seasoning.
- Serve the soup hot with the croutons on top and scatter over some of the onions.
*If you are going to use a stick blender it is much easier to do this in a large pan and it cuts down on splashing which can easily happen. I prefer to use a stick blender rather than have to pour the soup into a liquidiser and have two lots of things to wash up