It’s October and pumpkins are back on the shelves of the grocery stores all across the country.
Of course, in Ireland, the main purpose of a pumpkin is not for soup making. You could guess that easily by just looking at the labels stuck on the orange coloured vegetables’ skin: they all seem to state how good that particular pumpkin is for carving. And when I look at the pumpkin, all I wonder about is ‘Does it have enough flesh to make a soup?’ I would like to attribute it to cultural differences, but that isn’t true – I have never ever tasted a pumpkin in my life while in Russia. In fact, I don’t recall thinking of it as particularly edible and tasty. I mean, people in villages grew pumpkins but for the city dwellers it just wasn’t a thing.
Looking back now, I think we could learn a lot from those who grow their own vegetables and fruit. It may seem simpler for the lack of restaurant foods and delis, but in reality the diet of an average gardener would be much healthier than that of an average unbothered urban inhabitant relying on the supermarkets and restaurants. But let’s get back to pumpkins.
For the past few years it has become a new tradition of mine to shop for pumpkins the moment they get back in stock, but not just for carving. I like to make soups and sometimes curries or other stews with pumpkin. I’d also love to try and make my own pumpkin spice latte, or a pumpkin pie – but I didn’t get to that yet.
This time I have broadened my pumpkin recipe collection by Roasted Pumpkin and Maple Syrup soup, which I will share with you without any further a-do.
Roasted Pumpkin and Maple Syrup Soup
- 1 medium pumpkin
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- a pinch of cayenne pepper – to taste, optional
- 2.5-3 cups of vegetable stock
- 2 tsp coconut cream (from a can of chilled full fat coconut milk)
- Pink Himalayan rock salt or sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Olive oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
- Halve the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds (don’t toss them out) and cut the pumpkin into 1.2-2 inch slices. Rub the slices with a little bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Roast for about 35 minutes.
- And while the pumpkin is roasting, you can clear the pumpkin seeds of the debris, pat them dry and spread on a tray or a big plate to let them dry. After a day or so you can roast them, or simply shell them and eat whenever you want. They taste much nicer than any shelled pumpkin seeds sold in stores and keep fresh for longer if you store them in the shell in an airtight container.
- Once the pumpkin is done roasting, chop the onion and garlic. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic gently until golden and fragrant.
- Peel the skin off the pumpkin slices, add the pumpkin to the pan along with the spices. Stir for a few minutes on a medium-low heat, breaking the soft pumpkin flesh into pieces.
- Add the vegetable stock and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- Finally, add the coconut cream and maple syrup to the cooked soup. Whizz with an immersion blender until smooth. If it’s too thick, add a bit more hot vegetable stock. If you want it creamier in taste, add a little more coconut cream. You may also stir in the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I prefer to grind a bit of both directly into my bowl.
- Serve and enjoy!
A spoonful of cosy, autumn nutrition
Pumpkin soup is a perfect warming dish for cold October and November days, and if you ask me, instead of something only being available for halloween, it should be more of a staple food throughout the cold months. The same goes for spices, although these are easily available all year round. But why are pumpkin and spices are so good during late autumn and winter months? Let’s have a look.
First off, in colder months our body expends more energy to keep warm. This means that we should take extra measures to provide the body with this valuable energy. Starchy, fibre-rich vegetables like pumpkin are higher in carbohydrates than their watery friends like cucumbers and tomatoes, and provide us with the essential energy.
Besides the energy, pumpkins are extremely rich in Vitamin A, which is essential for a strong immune system. They are also rich in Vitamin C – another essential for good health, as well as Vitamin E and B-complex. In addition to this, pumpkins have a handful of powerful antioxidants up their imaginary sleeves, such as zea-xanthin, β-carotene and cryptoxanthin-β – the latter two are also very effective at boosting your immune system. Is that enough reasons to add pumpkins to your autumn/winter food list? I think so!
Now what about the spices? The spices are also very rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that turn them into tiny powerhouses. While antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols may offer a protective effect against cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and so on, they also usually offer a myriad of anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for your immune function. This is true for cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Spices like cumin, cayenne pepper and nutmeg are also rich in vitamins A, B-complex and C, which are important for your health. These spices also have a warming effect on the body, and are often used in Ayurvedic cooking during the cold weather or whenever the body needs extra warmth.
Stay healthy and warm!