From when I first started cooking with my nonna (grandmother) and my mom I knew it was something I would do for my entire life. I would do it with love and a passion for sharing something nutritious, beautiful and exciting with people around me. I did not imagine how important it would eventually become. Like today’s recipe, spicy pumpkin soup is a representation of that growth and I only recently started to realise it.
When I was younger I assumed everyone learnt to cook at home. I thought it was a standard skill everyone knew but as I grew older I started to see that many people did not grow up making their own food. This was a surprise to me, it still surprises me sometimes today. Then as I grew and my symptoms increased I found solace in cooking. It was time I could spend doing a creative activity and have time to myself that did not involve my disease. The importance of cooking became so significant in my life that my desire to share it increased and so a passion was born. I love food and I love to share my joy for food. I hope that this simple story of my journey with pumpkin soup will bring you the inspiration you need to step into the kitchen and create one that is your very own.
The Base Ingredients
When my mom first taught me to make pumpkin or butternut soup she used really basic ingredients and gave me the foundation I needed to understand the type of soup pumpkin creates. It is thicker and relies on the flavours that you incorporate. You also need to be careful with what you do add as the colour can be dramatically changed by the other ingredients you use. So let’s first start with what makes up the base of the soup.
- Oil (olive oil or sunflower oil)
- Black Pepper
- Paprika powder (hot)
Potatoes help to thicken the soup and carry flavour. You won’t need much of it, perhaps around a third of the amount of pumpkin. The onion and garlic will depend on how much of those flavours you want to come through. I typically use 1 to 2 medium onions and probably half a head of garlic since I enjoy a strong garlic flavour.
Start by preparing your ingredients. Once all is cooked it will be pureed to make it smooth so you do not need to make them perfect pieces. Just try to cut each item of a similar size so they cook around the same time. Cut each ingredient into cubes and place them aside until it is time to cook.
Optional Ingredients – How I Make Mine
Now, from my own flavour profile I know that I enjoy strong capsicum flavours, garlic, and heat. Keeping in mind that pumpkin is orange and that colour would be slightly diluted from the addition of potato, I wanted to pick ingredients that would help to bring back that yellow/orange colouration. While I enjoy these strong flavours it also needs something to balance them, a sweetness that will bring it all together. I added the following to elevate the soup and make it a dish that reflects what I enjoy most in my food;
- Yellow or red sweet peppers
- Green chilli (fresh)
Once you have all the ingredients ready to go, grab a medium to large pot and place it on the stove on a medium heat setting. Get the oil in the pot as well. Around a tablespoon to two tablespoons should be ideal. Let the oil heat slightly, then add the onions. Let the onions cook until they are opaque.
Then you will add in the sweet peppers and chilli if you are usign those ingredients. Let those cook for about 10 minutes on a medium heat so they get to know each other a bit better. Now it is time for the carrots and pancetta to cook for a little bit to render some of the fat out before adding in the tomatoes and garlic. Smash the tomatoes up if they are a bit sturdy to help them release the juices.
Let that cook for a few minutes while stirring. After about 5 or so minutes add in the pumpkin and potatoes. Give it a good stir then top up with the stock and seasoning (salt and black pepper). If you are unsure about the seasoning, add a little now and then taste the soup after about 30 minutes of cooking and add more if needed. You can also add a little powdered paprika or a touch of cinnamon to liven it up. I often add some paprika just before serving.
It should only take about an hour to two hours for the ingredients to be soft enough for the next step. Now you will want to puree the soup. I use a “passa tutto” I got from my mother but you can use a blender or even a wooden spoon and a sieve. Just do it while the soup is still hot or atleast warm. You will get the best results this way.
Put some aside for serving and whatever left overs can be placed in the fridge after cooling. It should last a few days without any hassles. If you pressure can your soups then you can go ahead and do that as well. It cans well.
If you forget an ingredient it is often not a problem to add it in before you puree the soup. Changing the order will likely not make a huge difference apart from the onions as the sweetness only really comes out when you cook them a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Have fun with it. Make it your own and do not be afraid to change it up. Cooking is about making for that nourishes your body and you as a person. Make food that makes you happy. Sometimes it is not the healthiest but that’s ok. We all need some less than healthy food occassionally. Just keep it balanced.
For serving you can add a little cream on top, some olive oil and grated parmesan cheese or even a touch of sour cream with chopped chives. The soup is of your making and mood. Enjoy!