It’s a blustery day here today. It’s raining, and it’s the first really cold rain of the fall. When I headed to the market, I was underdressed, damp and shivering, and clueless about what to cook for dinner. Then a display of pie pumpkins caught my attention as I entered, and I couldn’t help but picture them transformed into a warming bowl of soup. “As a first course?” my Dear Husband asked sheepishly and with a grin when I told him. So with a chicken and some vegetables popped into the oven to roast, we’ll all be happy and warm tonight. This is delicious and filling, velvety and comforting. The pumpkin simmers in chicken stock with root vegetables, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, allspice berries, and thyme, and it’s finished with a generous glug of rich cream. Make it on a cold, rainy day.
This soup would make a nice lunch or a lovely first course. It would also make a nice light dinner with some crusty bread and a peppery salad. You could substitute bacon for the pancetta, and sour cream for the crème fraiche and I think it would be equally tasty. Some fresh sage leaves crisped in butter would also make a pretty and delicious garnish.
Pumpkin Soup with Pancetta, Crème Fraiche, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 pie pumpkin, 7-8 pounds, cleaned and with its flesh and seeds scooped out and reserved*
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 pounds buttercream potatoes (Yukon golds would make a fine substitute.)
8 c. chicken stock, homemade or Swanson’s organic
a drizzle of olive oil for the pot and for the seeds
1 c. heavy cream (I love Cedar Summit Farms.)
2 cinnamon sticks
small piece of whole nutmeg
10-15 allspice berries
1 star anise
1 T. dried thyme
10-15 black peppercorns
2 slices of pancetta, about 1/3” thick, diced into cubes
*If, like me, you don’t particularly feel like sorting through the pumpkin goop for the seeds the day you make this soup, you may use raw pumpkin seeds and toast them. Instructions below. Shorten the baking time to 10 minutes.
- Wash and dry your pumpkin. Slice off the top carefully and scoop out the seeds and the stringy flesh. Separate the seeds, wash them, and place them on a sheet to dry. Use a metal ice cream scoop to remove the flesh from the interior of the pumpkin as you would a melon baller.
- Warm a large pot over medium low heat. Drizzle in a few turns of olive oil and add the onions. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and sauté them until they are becoming translucent.
- Add the carrots and the celery and a pinch of salt and sauté them for a few minutes.
- Add the potatoes, pumpkin flesh, chicken stock and salt to taste. Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the vegetable are quite tender and you can mash a potato and a piece of pumpkin with the back of a spoon, about 45 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, prepare the pumpkin seeds and the pancetta.
- Place the pumpkin seeds on parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle them generously with salt. Give them a toss and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden.
- Fry the cubes of pancetta over medium heat in a frying pan until they are golden and crisp.
- Using an immersion or conventional blender, puree the soup until it is silky.
- Stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning.
- Ladle the soup into your hollow pumpkin.
- To serve, fill a bowl with soup, swirl in a dollop of crème fraiche, and sprinkle on some crisp pancetta cubes and toasted pumpkin seeds.