I know what you’re thinking – not ANOTHER recipe for pumpkin soup. Admittedly, this time of year such recipes are everywhere – but personally, I can never have too much pumpkin. It’s really not a chore. My little boy isn’t yet old enough to know what Halloween is, so all the pumpkins in our house proceed directly to culinary use!
This pumpkin soup recipe has a few unexpected twists and turns. Notably, I’m using super-healthy hemp milk to make it silky smooth and add a delicate hint of nuttiness, and there’s also curry leaves and cumin thrown into the mix.
I still remember an amazing pumpkin soup I tasted a few years back in a cosy little family restaurant in the Austrian Tyrol. It was around this time of year, and the restaurant was a beautiful traditional wooden building, with big comfy cushions scattered on bench seating, low hanging lamps and the warmth of a semi-open kitchen.
Gemütlichkeit – what does it mean?
The Austrians actually have a word for this type of ‘wrapped up warm and cosy in winter’ kind of feeling, and it’s gemütlichkeit. It’s not a word that trips easily off the tongue, but it’s a word that everyone in Austria will identify with, and a feeling that certain types of food can also evoke.
Like pumpkin soup, for instance! The one I ate at the restaurant was served in a beautiful carved out pumpkin shell with a drizzle of rich pumpkin oil on top. Pumpkin oil was a speciality of that region, and it’s something I’ve also added to my soup below. It’s totally optional of course, but it does add a certain je ne sais quoi.
Admittedly, the soup I had in Austria was probably laden with butter and cream, which was why it tasted so darn good. I’ve gone with a much lighter, healthier recipe here, but there’s certainly no compromise on taste.
So why use hemp? Well, the nice people who make the GOOD range of hemp products (hemp oil, milk, seeds, and more recently hemp protein powder) recently sent me a selection of their products to try out and asked if I might develop some new recipes for their website.
Naturally, I was delighted. I’ve been a fan of their GOOD Oil for quite some time, but hadn’t got round to trying their shelled hemp seeds (I’ve only ever tried hemp seeds in their shells before, and I really couldn’t get much of a taste out of them), and their hemp milk.
A lot of things are labelled as superfoods these days – but if any ingredient is deserving of this label, then it’s hemp. For a start, it’s choc-a-block full of essential fatty acids, and the Omega 6s and Omega 3s are in the right proportion for the best absorption. Hemp seed oil is also the only vegetarian source of Omega 3s.
Actually, I do sometimes take fish oils too, but you really have to be careful of the source, because of the toxins and dioxins that they can potentially contain.
Hemp oil is low in saturated fats, and also a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which if consumed regularly, is great for your skin and hair. According to the people at GOOD, just 10ml of their oil contains the same amount of GLA as six Evening Primrose Oil capsules. Like all nutritious oils, I highly recommend you keep it in the fridge once opened.
Now, the hemp milk, I’d never tried before, and it’s really rather nice – slightly sweet and nutty, but not overpowering, really quite delicate. I suspected it would be great in soup and those thoughts turned out to be well founded. It adds a beautiful taste to this recipe.
We’re not dairy free in our house, but I do take opportunities to personally limit the amount of cow’s milk I drink. I’m still looking for a non-dairy milk that tastes good in tea, but this hemp milk tastes perfectly OK in coffee (as does almond milk).
Just one 250ml serving of hemp milk provides 50 per cent of the recommended daily intake of Omega 3 – which is great. It’s quite effortless to consume that amount in some way. How about soup!
One important thing about my recipe: you really need to roast the pumpkin beforehand, because that’s what brings out its sweet, earthy flavour. I’ve tried boiling cubes of pumpkin and making soup out of it, and it was pretty tasteless. So don’t skip this step, or you might be disappointed.
The curry leaves and cumin give it a less traditional flavour, and I’ve finished it off with some pumpkin oil. As its a very rich, distinctly-flavoured oil (available in most good supermarkets now) you only need a little – treat it as you would truffle oil.
The parmesan-hemp soldiers are simple to make. They’re delicate little things that just need lightly toasting, and be careful because the seeds are likely to drop off with too much handling (if they’re going to drop off, make sure they head straight into your soup to capitalise on all that hemp goodness).
I love having something crunchy to dunk in my soup – so much more satisfying than croutons!
If you haven’t ever tried hemp seeds, then maybe you should! As they’ve been shelled, you just get the soft, nutty kernel. They’re much softer than sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and great for sprinkling on salads, adding to homemade salad dressings or just scattering over veggies. I’ve started to add some into my little boy’s food sometimes for some extra nutrition and he seems quite happy to eat them (probably hasn’t even noticed if truth be told!).
I think I’ve rambled on enough, here’s the pumpkin-soupy-solider-recipe thing.
Roasted pumpkin soup with parmesan-hemp soldiers
Ingredients for the soup
Half a medium pumpkin (approx one kilo uncooked weight)
One large onion, finely chopped
Half a head of garlic
2 cups hemp milk
1-2 cups vegetable stock (homemade is best, but you can also use a stock cube)
12 curry leaves (approx)
2 tsp cumin
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper to season
Pumpkin oil for garnish (optional)
Cut the pumpkin into chunks or slices, brush with a little oil and sprinkle with some sea salt. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg c and roast the pumpkin on a tray for around 45-60 minutes. Also put the half head of unpeeled garlic on the tray at the beginning, and take this out after around 40-45 minutes (when the outer shell starts to brown).
In the meantime fry the onion, curry leaves and cumin in a pan. When the cooked garlic has cooled, squeeze out the soft cooked flesh from the baked cloves and add to the onion mix.
When the pumpkin starts to soften and its skin is starting to brown take it out of the oven and leave to cool. Then remove the skin and transfer to a food processor or a blender.
Add the cooled onion mix to the blender/processor as well. Remember is you are whizzing up warm items in a blender you need to let some air into the top (take out the stopper) otherwise you’re going to end of with soup all over your kitchen!
Next add one cup of hemp milk and one cup of stock and blend until smooth. At this point you can add the rest of the hemp milk, and then decide also if you want to add more vegetable stock. It really just depends if you like a thick soup of a runny one.
Serve in a bowl and garnish with a fried curry leaf, and some pumpkin oil (or some hemp oil) if you wish.
Slices of chunky bread – perhaps one slice per person (I used a homebaked seeded bread)
Parmesan, very finely grated
There’s no particular quantities for these soldiers, it’s very much a hand/eye recipe.
Cut the bread into chunky strips and lay on a piece of tin foil on a flat baking tray. Drizzle well with hemp oil both sides, then sprinkle over some hemp seeds and pat them into the bread. Finally, grate over some parmesan, again patting and turning the soldier as you go. Slide under a hot grill until they are lightly browned each side.
Try not to eat up all those tasty soldiers before they arrive, neatly stacked, on a plate beside your soup!