Pumpkin soup is a lovely warming autumn dish that has a natural sweetness that appeals to children. It’s also easy to make and if you pick your pumpkin well (see below) you get a children’s craft and cookery project all in one! The perfect activity to fill a few hoursg in half-term.
It’s of course too late now to grow pumpkins this year, BUT if you have the space, I thoroughly recommend growing them next year. The seeds are big enough for small fingers to easily plant in pots and the enormous plants that grow from them are very rewarding for children to see. We grew them last year and although we only got one pumpkin to maturity it was an exciting process, for all of us!
About buying pumpkins at Halloween
Pumpkins sold in shops around Halloween are generally grown for carving, that’s to say they are big and cheap with little flavour. You can get round this problem in a number of ways. Most supermarkets now sell two distinct types, there are carving pumpkins (the ones in the big pile as you go in the door) and cooking or culinary pumpkins (hidden away with the rest of the vegetables) A small culinary pumpkin is generally about the same price as a large carving pumpkin, but with much more flavour and of course there is nothing to stop you carving one that’s been grown for cooking… it’s just a bit silly to buy the more expensive one if you don’t intend to use the flesh!
Also if you aren’t actually fussed about buying a pumpkin per se, but just want the soup, the other option is not to use pumpkin at all! Butternut squash makes an excellent pumpkin substitute and is much easier to extract the flesh from (you can use a vegetable peel to remove the skin and then most of what remains goes in the pot.) I promise you no one will ever be able to tell the difference when they taste the finished result.
Finally, if you’ve already bought a pumpkin and you suspect it might be a carving one, don’t scrimp on cheap stock. It makes a big difference to the flavour if you invest in decent stock pots or cubes. The recipe below also uses a little sweet potato which helps with the flavour, if you have none carrot is good too.
A word about soup makers…
I held out from buying a soup maker for ages. Surely it does the same job as a pot on the hob? But it doesn’t… Our soup consumption has trebled since I bought our soup maker and it’s fantastic to be able to leave it unattended while you get on with other things, or go out for a walk.
If you have a gas hob they are also a little less hazardous for children to use. My eight-year-old can make soup unsupervised from scratch now, but I’m not so sure I’d be keen to leave him with a naked flame! If you’re interested, this is the model I bought, whatever you buy ensure you get one with a saute function.
Recipe for easy pumpkin soup
- 1 small culinary pumpkin (mine weighed 1.4kg whole and I got 500g of flesh from it)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 300g of sweet potato
- 750ml of vegetable stock made with good quality stock cubes/pots (I like Knorr)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chorizo (optional)
- Cream (to garnish)
Saute the onions in a pan with the olive oil (or you can do this in your soup maker) for 5 minutes.
Pumpkin flesh is very soft and after cutting the top off with a sharp knife, the removal of the flesh can be done by a child with an ordinary spoon. Once it’s removed add it with the stock to your pan or soup maker. Cook for 20 minutes and blend.
Whilst the soup is cooking, dry fry some chunks of the chorizo in a frying pan and use these to garnish the soup with a drizzle of cream.