Student Suppers: Basic Pumpkin & Coconut Soup with Toppings
Sorry to break it to you guys, but this horrid weather we’re having today is pretty much sticking with us for the rest of the week. On the plus side, though, it provides us with the perfect excuse to bulk up on the warming stews and steaming bowls of soup. I’m a big believer that a pumpkin is not just for Halloween, so this morning around the madness that was the office I set a pan of a really basic and simple Pumpkin and Coconut Soup recipe I’ve been working on to simmer away on the AGA. I also whipped together a quick basil oil and baked the pumpkin seeds I’d have otherwise discarded in a bit of a sweet and spicy coating by way of toppings.
Sitting in the drawing room window with the days newspaper and a steaming bowl of soup really drew a line under a morning of madness and set me up to face the afternoon. Remind me why we have to even get out of bed on a Monday morning? Also, the knowledge that I’ll have another steaming bowl of soup for lunch tomorrow, topped off again with the seeds I’ve stashed in a airtight container, and leftover coconut milk (I’ve currently got an open can in a jug in the fridge) and a good dash of basil oil I’ve also got in the fridge (in a screw top jar) swirled in the top makes me feel ready to face any volume of Autumnal rain fall.
This pretty blue, uniquely shaped bowl I’ve currently got on loan from the girls at Sophie Conran. I visited their old offices (they were about to move) in a Bayswater townhouse back in July, and this salad bowl from Sophie’s collection with Portmeirion has been sitting on my desk ever since, waiting for soup season. I really love the whole collection, and I keep on lusting after it all every time I go to the Steamer Trading Cookshop in front of the Cathedral in Canterbury, where they have it all on display just at the top of the stairs. They do everything from plates to bowls, to measuring cups and water glasses, so they’d make a perfect gift for someone getting married or moving into their first home, so they could gradually build up their collection. This is what my parents did when they were originally gifted some of Portmeirion’s Botanic Garden collection; we now have a kitchen full of it. White would be especially lovely if they (like me) already have a fair few multi coloured plates of their own so they can mix them in, but the collection also has pale pink and pale blue.
This recipe makes 2-3 bowls of soup, or 4 bowls if you’re serving smaller portions as an Autumnal starter. The basil oil, stored in a jar will keep for a week or two in the fridge and is great on everything from pasta to risotto, or to dress a simple side salad. I do have a recipe for Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds I posted last Halloween, but today I’ve used the coating from the Sweet & Spicy Roasted Chickpeas (which are worryingly addictive) from my friend Izy’s brilliant book Top With Cinnamon. I’ve been craving Sriracha everything, recently.
- 600g (20 oz, or about 1/2 a medium cooking pumpkin) Pumpkin, peeled & cubed
- Light Olive Oil (for frying)
- 1 Large Onion, chopped
- 2 Large Garlic Cloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp Clear Honey
- 1/2 Vegetable Stock Cube (3/4 tsp bullion powder)
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 3-4 tbsp Coconut Milk
- Handful Pumpkin Seeds
- 1/2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 1/2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
- 1/2 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1/2 tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce
- 1/4 tsp Sriracha
- Large Handful Fresh Basil Leaves
- Juice of 1/2 Lime or 1/4 Lemon
- 60ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Heat a dash of light olive oil (both in the UK and USA I always have a bottle of Fillippo Berio’s Mild & Light to hand for frying practically everything in day to day use) in the bottom of a large saucepan over a medium heat, and gently fry the onions for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the chopped garlic and fry for a few minutes more until the garlic has softened, but not started to brown. Add the stock cube and stir until it is all dissolved. Add the pumpkin and the honey, and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add just enough water to the pan to cover the pumpkin, and allow to simmer with the lid on over the medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until all the pieces of pumpkin are cooked through.
Meanwhile, toast the pumpkin seeds and make the basil oil. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (400 fahrenheit). To make the seeds, rinse off the pumpkin pulp in a sieve under cold running water, and dry out on a piece of kitchen towel. Mix the soy sauce, white wine vinegar, sugar, sriracha, toasted sesame oil and sweet chilli sauce together in a small bowl, and add the pumpkin seeds. Stir to coat all the seeds, and spread them out across a metal baking tray. Roast in the oven for 5 minutes, then use a spatular to mix them up and turn them over. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Lift off the tray onto a piece of greaseproof paper to dry, then set aside. Blend together the basil, citrus, oil, a good pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper in a blender or mini herb chopper. My mini chopper is fantastic and I use it for so many sauces and marinades; it is from Kenwood, only costs £17.99 and will last for years.
Remove the soup from the heat and blend until smooth in a blender, or using a stick blender. Mine is an ancient stick blender from Kenwood which you can’t get anymore, but again they’re a good investment you can get at a very reasonable price. Blend in the coconut milk (I used 3 tbsp, but you can use a bit more depending on your personal taste or how thick your preferred brand of milk is) and check the seasoning. Serve straight away with swirls of leftover coconut milk, and the seeds and basil oil.
If you’re after some more cold weather soup recipes for this week, here are a few from my archives: Pea & Mozzarella Soup, Warming Carrot Soup, Spicy Carrot Soup with Greek Yogurt & Coriander Lime Oil, A Basic Chicken Soup, Spiced Potato & Butternut Squash Soup and ‘Winter Cure’ Kale, Barley & Root Vegetable Soup. I’d love to hear what warming, seasonal bowlfuls you have planned for this week?