Saturday, November 9, 2013

Soup days

I used to dislike soups. I considered them a cure for the flu or the antidote to the common cold, and I mostly reserved them for when they were truly needed, like when my tummy felt funny. I think everything changed when I moved from Greece to the Netherlands where the winters are far colder and the need for warming soups is far greater. Now I can’t get enough of them.

I hadn’t had soup in a while and I had missed it. I longed for the arrival of chilly autumn days and guess what? They’re here with a vengeance, and a hot, hearty soup is all I have on my mind when it comes to supper.

Pumpkin soup was never in my repertoire until recently. It has become a staple and with good reason; its amazing flavor and color. I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but being drawn to that incredibly vibrant orange hue.

It makes me happy to look at this soup, to photograph it, to savor it. And then comes the real treat, its texture, that is smooth, creamy and velvety with miniscule grains of vegetables lingering on my tongue, slowly dissolving inside my mouth.

The garnishes on top are not for show, they’re not added to make the soup look more attractive, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they give flavor and texture. An acidic, sour note from the dried cranberries, crunch and extra pumpkin flavor from the pumpkin seeds, freshness and grassiness from the parsley, and the hint of nutmeg that's hidden inside the soup brings it all together without being overpowering.

As each flavor bursts in my mouth, I realize that what I’m savoring has character, substance. It is sweet and salty and sour and earthy, and then, with the next mouthful, the ride starts again and I never want it to end.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cranberries
Barely adapted from Dutch Delicious

For me, creamy soups should still be soups, not purées, and this is truly creamy without being stodgy.

Make sure to cut your vegetables equal in size so they cook at the same time.

You can omit the cream if you want a lighter version of the soup or substitute it with whole milk.

The soup definitely needs the addition of lemon juice at serving to cut through the sweetness of the pumpkin and vegetables. Use more or less depending on your taste.

Yield: 6-8 soup servings

4 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for garnishing
1 onion (about 150 g), roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
600 g (1 small) peeled pumpkin (I used Hokkaido pumpkin), cut into pieces
1 large potato (about 300 g), peeled and cut into pieces
2 carrots (about 400 g), cleaned and cut into pieces
1 leek (about 150 g), white and pale green parts only, cut into pieces
½ tsp grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
750 ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
500 ml hot water
125 ml cream, full-fat
1-2 Tbsp hulled pumpkin seeds
1-2 Tbsp dried cranberries, chopped
A handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Special equipment: immersion or regular blender

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan (I used an enameled cast-iron pan), heat olive oil over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until they soften, stirring regularly so they don’t catch.

Add garlic, pumpkin, potato, carrots, leek, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Then add the chicken stock and hot water and mix again. Turn heat up to high and bring to the boil. Then turn heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.

In the meantime, in order to toast the pumpkin seeds, add them to a dry, small pan and place over medium heat. Toast seeds, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until they become fragrant. Empty them immediately onto a plate and let them cool.

Once the soup is ready, remove from the heat, let cool for a while and then, if you’re using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables in the pan until smooth and creamy. If you have a regular blender, transfer the vegetables little by little to it and blend until you have a smooth and creamy soup. Return soup to the pan.
Place the pan over low heat, add the cream and stir well. Give it a taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Allow to come to a simmer and remove the pan from the heat.

Serve in deep bowls. Stir in a couple of squeezes of lemon juice and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped dried cranberries, some chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

The following day, the soup will taste even better, as all soups do.


  1. Marco just cooked a similar soup last thursday. Without the cream, seeds and cranberries, but still similar. I'm looking fwd to try this one :)

  2. Beautiful post! Recipe sounds wonderful and the pics are beautiful. I had a soup in a restaurant last week made with Butternut Squash that tasted almost exactly like this "tastes" as I read it, right down to the seed garnish (but not the cranberries, which sound lovely.) It was soooooo good! I do have a question: Your pumpkin looks to me like a Hubbard Squash. In my experience, pumpkins dimple in at the stem, so the base of the stem sits lower than the surface of the pumpkin no matter if it is perfectly round or if it is oval; and Hubbard Squash expand out towards the stem kind of like a teardrop. They taste much the same, and for cooking purposes, I think they are nearly identical. Just wondering if pumpkins are different in Europe? Christina

  3. Great and timely post, Magda! I have succumbed to buying several pumpkins and squash so I think I will make several versions of pumpkin soup - including this one - within the next few weeks. They are the perfect supper! ~ David

  4. Maria — I hope you enjoy it!

    Christina — hello there. We have various kinds of pumpkins here that I'm not sure whether they are as the ones you have in the US. I only have pumpkin experience from Greece and the Netherlands. The one I used is sold here everywhere for soups along with the butternut squash. It is sweet and earthy. It doesn't have a particular name, it goes by, well, pumpkin. Give the "Hubbard squash" a go and see how it tastes, perhaps it's the same. Sorry I can't be of more help on this.

    David — they are indeed the perfect supper. I hope you enjoy!

  5. Wow this looks good. I like the cranberries and pumpkin seeds on top. Wonderful flavor combinations here, Magda. I want to dip my spoon into your photographs.

  6. Pumpkin soup is my favourite too! I love the beautiful toppings - such great flavour combinations and colours!