Monday, December 22, 2014

Pumpkin soup with parsnip, crème fraîche and walnuts

I never used to think much of pumpkins. Traditionally, in Greece, we use pumpkin as a filling in a sweet pumpkin pie made with phyllo (kolokythopita / κολοκυθόπιτα), but other than that, I never thought they could be used in anything else; I considered them more ornamental rather than edible.

Since relocating to the Netherlands, I’ve found more uses for pumpkin, with my favorite one being in soups. I love their earthy and sweet flavor plus they make the smoothest, prettiest-colored soups.

The other day, purely by chance, I came across a variety of pumpkin named Muscade (or Musquée) originating from the Provence region of France (you must have realized by now how much the Dutch love French products and food ingredients, and fortunately they can be found in abundance here).

It was beautiful and when I cut it open, the most unexpected pinkish-orange color made its appearance and an intoxicating aroma of sweet, ripe melon came over me. I got so carried away that I decided to cut a piece and eat it right then and there. Well, I should’ve known better, pumpkins are not meant to be eaten raw. I immediately started preparing it to make the soup. Apart from pretty, the pumpkin was also huge. It weighed around four and a half kilos so I ended up making three batches of this soup with a single pumpkin!

The flavor did not disappoint either; it was wonderfully sweet, earthy and nutty, and along with the parsnips, shallots and garlic, it made a very tasty and unassuming soup, elegant in both flavor and appearance. It was silky smooth, not very thick, crunchy from the walnuts with a pleasant acidity given by the crème fraîche.

It may be the ideal dish to serve as a starter during a holiday dinner since it’s quite light, with a mild flavor, and can be easily followed by meat, poultry or fish dishes. It is also perfect for those in-between-the-holidays days when you don’t know what to cook or you’re not in the mood to stay too long in the kitchen and are in need for something soothing. For whichever occasion you choose to make it, I hope you enjoy it!

You may also want to take a look at this pumpkin soup I made last year which is equally delicious.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas with good food and good company!

Pumpkin soup with parsnip, crème fraîche and walnuts
Slightly adapted from A kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson

If you can’t find the variety of French pumpkin I used (Muscat / Muscade or Musquée de Provence), choose a similar one.

In Greece, parsnips are difficult to find, so if you can’t source them where you live, substitute half the amount with potato and the other half with carrot.

Yield: 4 as a main / 6 as a starter

4 Tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1½ kg (about 650 g net weight) Muscat pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
200 g parsnips, peeled and chopped smaller than the pumpkin because they are tougher
Freshly ground black pepper (if you don’t want the specks, use white pepper)
300 ml vegetable stock (or 300 ml water + 1 stock cube)
470 ml fresh whole milk

to serve
150 g crème fraîche
60 g walnuts, chopped roughly
A small bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped

Special equipment: immersion or regular blender

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the shallots and sauté for 6-7 minutes, until soft and golden, stirring continuously and regulating the heat so they don’t catch. Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.

Add chopped pumpkin and parsnips and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. (If using stock cube, add it together with the vegetables).
Season with a little salt and pepper, and add vegetable stock (or water in case you’re using a stock cube) and milk. Bring to the boil over high heat, cover the pan with the lid and turn heat down to low.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. When the soup is ready, the milk may look split. Don’t worry about it, it will all come together once you blend it.

Remove from the heat, let soup 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, give it a taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve in individual deep plates with a dollop of crème fraîche, a few walnuts and a sprinkle of chives.

The soup keeps perfectly in the fridge for a couple of days and in the freezer for 1 month, in an airtight container.


  1. I, too, love pumpkin best in soups and savory preparations. Not to say that I don't eat my share of pumpkin pie, too. :) The combination with the parsnips sounds quite lovely, as they get nice and creamy, too. Definitely one to try with all the good pumpkins available in the farmers market now. Merry Christmas, Magda - I hope you and S. have wonderful plans to celebrate! ~ David

  2. As a lover of all things "pumpkin, squash & root vegetable" this is a must try for me. We have an abundance of all from late fall through March so I am printing your recipe for a cold winter night. Happy Holidays in The Netherlands.

  3. Thank you both! Merry Christmas and have a great time with your loved ones!