In the wake of COP26, hopefully we are all more conscious than ever of reducing our environmental and carbon footprints by less wastage and more reusing and recycling. And of course one of the most important areas we can focus on at home is the food we prepare, cook and eat. We waste 6.7 million tonnes of food every year in the UK, and so with this in mind, I felt compelled to use the pumpkin that has been sitting on the window ledge in my kitchen since Halloween.
I had been planning to give it to my chickens, but when my daughter asked me to make soup for her, this seemed like the perfect answer. Not only did I use up the pumpkin in this recipe, but also the vegetable stock is made from discarded vegetable peelings, and I like to serve this soup with croutons, which are a great way to use up stale bread, an idea which I scooped from my good friend, Sam!
For the croutons:
Simply cut the end of your loaf into cubes, drizzle with olive or rapeseed oil, perhaps some garlic salt and pepper, and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Once cool, these can be used straight away or bagged up and frozen and then a handful taken out and crisped up in the oven when you need them.
For the stock:
Another useful tip which I learnt from my daughter, who became vegan a few years ago now, and so we have slowly been adopting more vegan and vegetarian practices. One of those is to keep all of your (clean) vegetable off-cuts and peelings and skins such as onions, garlic, carrots, leeks, etc and freeze them in a resealable bag, adding to them whenever you have more. Then when the time comes of needing a good vegetable stock, you take out your vegetable trimmings, perhaps add some peppercorns plus a bay leaf or two or some rosemary from the garden, and if you have some parsley or coriander, particularly one of those big bunches you see on our market stalls, then break off the stalks, and add these. Chuck in any carrots or parsnips lurking in the back of the fridge that maybe past their best, cover with water and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
For the soup:
Thoroughly wash the pumpkin, cut into wedges, sprinkle with olive oil, some salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
Whilst that’s cooking, take a big pan, gently fry a chopped onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a thumb sized piece of ginger, 1cm of fresh turmeric if you have some. I like to grate the garlic, ginger and turmeric as find it easier but of course you can chop it or use a press, etc. Once these have softened, add some spice. If you haven’t already used fresh turmeric, add a teaspoon of ground turmeric, plus 2 teaspoons of cumin and let the spices cook for a few minutes before adding a can of coconut milk and using the empty can to ladle the equivalent of a can full of your vegetable stock. If its easier, you can use a vegetable stock cube at this point, (preferably vegan and organic) having diluted it with 400ml of boiling water.
Let this all infuse for 5 minutes in the pan, before adding your pumpkin, having peeled it and chopped into chunks. Let it cook for another 10 minutes, checking the pumpkin is nice and soft, and then season with the juice of half a lime and half a lemon (or whatever you have to hand), a pinch of sea salt, a grind or two of pepper before carefully whizzing in the blender until smooth.
The soup is delicious served with some croutons, a dollop of creme fraiche (oat if you’re keeping it vegan) and some toasted pumpkin seeds, which you can roast in the same tray as the croutons to save on the washing up! A nice sprinkling of chopped parsley, and there you have a lovely vegan pumpkin soup made from things that would otherwise have all been thrown away!