Pumpkin soup with ‘bits’

Turning a kinda basic soup into an exciting bowl of contrasting flavours and textures is easy.

Pumpkin is really cheap and bountiful at this time of the year (winter is here!), and I love jap pumpkin (kabocha). If I’m roasting pumpkin chunks for salad or just eating, I always leave the skin on, so it gets crispy and delicious in the oven, but the skin won’t develop the same crunch and caramelisation in the soup pot, so I slice it off in big slices with my cleaver before chucking the flesh in the soup – it’s easiest to chop the pumpkin into big wedges and slice the skin off the wedges. Don’t worry about slicing too close to the skin, some flesh is fine.

Pumpkin quinoa soup: chop 1/2 a large pumpkin into rough chunks and throw into a large pot, with olive oil and salt, begin browning while you finely slice one brown onion and toughly chop all of the cloves of a garlic bulb, adding to the pot to begin to brown. Add 1 to 2 cups quinoa, a bay leaf or two and top with water to cover all the pumpkin. Simmer until the pumpkin and quinoa are both quite soft, the soup should become smooth with a few good stirs with a wooden spoon. Soup done! 

While the soup is cooking prepare the exciting toppings.

Crispy nigella seed pumpkin skin: toss the pumpkin skins in some olive oil, a generous grinding of salt, and a good sprinkling of nigella seeds, and spread skin down onto a large baking sheet, and roast in a hot oven until the skin is crispy and browned and the flesh is cooked through.

Herb and garlic marinated fetta: crumble a block of fetta (I love creamy Danish fetta) into a bowl (or tuppaware if you won’t eat all of it in one go), lightly smash and peel a couple of garlic cloves, chop a handful of flatleaf parsley and a couple of spring/green onions, and pour over a generous amount of olive oil and a big squeeze of fresh lemon. If you’re short on time, warming the oil a bit before adding the garlic and herbs helps develop the flavours, but let it cool for a few minutes before pouring over the fetta, especially if you’re using a soft style cheese.

Toasted pepitas: ah, toss some pepitas in a hot pan until they begin to pop.

Ladle soup into bowls, cover with a pile of each of the toppings. Serve with toasted bread, but only if you love bread. Impress!

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