Warming recipe for maximum autumnal vibes
One of the things I have found most confusing about moving to the other side of the world is the change of seasons. I moved from winter in Oxford to autumn in Melbourne, so have essentially had two winters in a row. Expectations of burning hot summers were thankfully unfounded, and after a fairly cool summer, Autumn is upon us once again.
To add to my confusion, the shops have been full of pumpkins all year round, even as they were filling people’s Instagram feeds in the Northern hemisphere. But I don’t just mean the bright orange ones for carving, there are a variety of different coloured ones, designed not to be ornaments, but to be eaten. These seem to be far more popular here than they are back home. Though butternut squash is ubiquitous in the UK (woe for any vegetarian who doesn’t like them), pumpkin doesn’t seem to have gained the same status, and is still a bit unusual. They’re treated mostly as decorations, not delicious food. Here in Australia my go-to pumpkin is the Kent, a green and speckled yellow variety, and if I’m honest I might actually prefer it to butternut. It is almost interchangeable in terms of flavour, but is more reliably sweet. It kind of disintegrates when you roast it, becoming almost mushy if you’re not careful, so isn’t so well suited to some recipes as butternut. But that makes it a perfect match for soups. I’ve got into the habit of making soups over the past few months, cooking up big vats and having them for lunches. They’re a great vegan way to liven up work from home lunches, and an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet. We’ve tried a few different combinations, but the best so far has been carrot and pumpkin.
While pumpkin can be a little on the expensive side, carrots are super (no pun intended!) cheap, so are a good option for bulking out a soup. The recipe I used for a guide is this Taste.com.au one, but I substituted about 600g of pumpkin for carrots (‘I’m Perfect’ ones from Coles, so as cheap and cheerful as possible). The pumpkin is a stronger flavour though, so even at these ratios it was well-balanced. I also added a load of fresh coriander, which had a bit of a growth spurt in our garden, so I’m trying to use it in anything and everything. The recipe is incredibly simple, and although prepping the vegetables might take a while, you get a lot of soup at the end. I store mine in an old juice bottle, bung it in the fridge, and just pour out my next portion for lunch whenever I’m ready for it. For the full instructions check out the Taste post, but read on for my photos and step by steps.
Chop up your onion and leek and sweat it for a few minutes over a medium heat, before adding the spices and garlic. In the meantime, boil the kettle for your stock, and prepare the rest of your vegetables. I chopped everything into fairly small pieces to keep the cooking time down. I peeled all the carrots, but this isn’t strictly necessary, so if you have a tough vegetable brush and/or are short on time you can just give them a good scrub.
Once your garlic and spices have been cooking for a few minutes, you can just add basically everything else. Pop all your vegetables into the pan, and pour over the stock. There should be enough stock to cover all your veg. Then simply put the lid on, keep it at a low to medium heat, and let it simmer. Mine took about the suggested half an hour, but I (perhaps bravely, perhaps foolishly) didn’t keep too close an eye on it, and went to do some gardening. I popped back every ten minutes or so to check, as it bubbled away nicely.
When it’s ready the vegetables should have a soft bite, and easily break apart when squashed with the back of a fork. If you’re after something hearty and historical, you could serve the soup as it is. But the pumpkin and potato give it a wonderfully smooth texture when blended, so I opted for that. Remove the pan from the heat, throw in as much fresh coriander as you like, and have at it with a stick blender. Putting the coriander in at this stage keeps it nice and green, and lends a lovely zing. If you’re one of the many people who hate coriander, you could leave it out altogether, and substitute for some chili flakes and/or basil. Be a bit careful as you blend, as it’s all too easy to spray how soup everywhere.
All that is left for you to do to is serve, ideally with rustic chunks of bread and butter, a sprinkling of pepper and salt, and a handful of fresh coriander. Often a dash of cream is suggested at this point, but I think it is perfect without, so why spoil its vegan credentials? You’ll have to try hard not to have three portions at once, it is so delicious.
So there you have it, an admirably straightforward recipe for an autumnal classic. Probably adding to my sense of seasonal confusion on the whole (as I type I’m seeing pictures of beautiful blossom back home), but worth it for the homely and hearty taste.
What are your favourite autumnal and winter recipes? If you live in the UK, do you ever cook with pumpkin? I’ve seen it occasionally in Italian restaurants, and generic vegetarian dishes, but the most pumpkin action we have seems to be through carving them at Halloween. When we throw away all the good bits, and leave the rest to rot on our doorsteps! I’d love to hear any recommendations you have for pumpkin, soup or just winter recipes in general, so please do share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy giving this recipe a go!