Autumn plays host to so many wonderful vegetables that it’s difficult for me to pick just one to focus on and truth be told the pumpkin only barely won out against beetroot and pak choi.
I say ‘pumpkin’ but the correct term is actually Winter Squash, which grow in a variety of different shapes, sizes, colours and textures. The term pumpkin is generally used to describe the specific variety known as ‘Curcubita Peto’ that is grown commercially for its rounded shape and smooth orange skin. Admittedly, while this variety is ideal for carving at Halloween, it is not the most flavoursome of the varieties in its family, However tastier varieties such as ‘Crown Prince’ , ‘Queenland Blue’ or ‘Zucca da Marmellata' which are used in Italy to produce chutneys and jams are harder to come by, unless you happen to know an adventurous gardener.
In order to maximise the taste of which ever squash you can lay your hands my recommendation is to cut it open, clean out the centre and rub it with some spice before roasting. Arguably the Winter Squash family deserve more than the recognition it receives for serving as a decorative ‘Jack o Lattern’ . It is thought to be one of the oldest domesticated vegetables in the world, and is extremely versatile given that the leaves, seeds and flowers are also edible. In the US and Canada it might appear on the table as a pumpkin pie, in Japan the flowers stuffed and deep fried as tempura, in Italy as ravioli tossed in sage butter. So get creative and remember that Pumpkins belong to Autumn not just Halloween.
Ready in 60 minutes
Serves 4 -6 people
The roasted chickpeas and crispy kale topping also make for an excellent accompaniment to pan fried chicken which has been marinated in olive oil and lemon juice.
For the Soup
1 squash or pumpkin
1 tbsp melted butter
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
2 eating apples
1lt vegetable stock
For the Chickpea & Kale Topping
I tin chickpeas, drained
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & pepper
2 handfuls kale leaves, washed and dried
3 tbsps pumpkin seeds
1. To prepare the roasted squash: Cut the pumpkin/squash in half. Remove the stalk, using a spoon scrape out the seeds and pulp from the centre. Cut the squash into quarter pieces and score the flesh with a knife.
2. Drizzle the flesh with the melted butter, sprinkle with the spices and rub them well into the flesh of the squash.
3. Place the pieces onto an oven tray and bake for approx. 35 minutes @ 190￮C, until almost tender.
4. To prepare the base for the soup: While the squash is roasting chop the onion and apple. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and apple over a low to medium heat until just beginning to caramelise. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a further minute. Pour in ¾ of the vegetable stock and add the bayleaf.
5. Remove squash from the oven, allow to cool slightly, using a spoon scrape away the flesh from the skin and add flesh to the soup. Allow the soup to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until the squash has softened through.
6. To prepare the Chickpea & Kale Topping: Place the drained chickpeas, pieces of kale leaves and pumpkin seeds onto the oven tray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with smoked paprika and rub in well.
7. Place the tray in the oven and roast for 10 minutes @ 180￮C until chickpeas begin to brown and the kale leaves are crispy.
8. Take the soup from the heat and remove the bayleaf. Using a blender process the soup until smooth. If the soup is too thick add some of the remaining vegetable stock to thin it out.
9. Spoon the soup out into bowls and scatter over the chickpea kale topping.