Behold, the mighty pumpkin. Well, surprisingly, not that mighty in the land of the Brits. Despite the hordes of pumpkins and pumpkin-flavored items in the US, alas, the UK (as I have waxed lyrically about previously) seems to shirk the glories of this gourd.
Although pumpkin soup is not completely unknown on this side of the Atlantic, versions seem to promote the standard "peel, cube, and cook" varieties. Now, I don't know if you've ever tried to peel a pumpkin, but there are few less rewarding tasks in this world. And a task guaranteed to either cause significant harm to you and/or your pumpkin, probably leaving you with little desire to carry on in the soup-making task.
Which is why *this* version of pumpkin soup is so glorious. No peeling required! Just the standard jack-o-lantern trick of cutting a lid on the top and scooping out the glorious pumpkin seeds (to be toasted later). Baking the entire pumpkin also makes a great display for the table (Martha Stewart eat your heart out) and you also get to live dangerously: Will the pumpkin collapse in the oven? Won't it? Yes, the soup takes a bit of patience, but the combination of Thai and autumnal flavors in this thing are completely worth it. Originally this soup (in a much simpler yet absolutely still delicious form) was found via River Cottage and basically involves cooking a bunch of cream and cheese in a hollowed pumpkin. My version makes the concoction a bit more soup-like with some complex Asian flavors and some mushrooms thrown in for earthiness. It's a soup that's a bit time-consuming but wonderful on those cold autumn nights.
One large pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated in boiling water and left to soak for up to 30 minutes, but SAVE the water which you rehydrated them in!!! If you don't want to use this, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth)
1 cup chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 green or red finger chilies, diced
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup single cream
4 slices bacon (or bacon lardons), cooked and drained of fat
2 tbsp. Olive oil
3/4 tsp white pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cilantro/Green onions (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF/191ºC.
Using a narrow pointed knife, slice around the stem of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. Scoop out pulp and seeds (but don't forget to keep the seeds for toasting!). Place the emptied pumpkin on a large baking tray that has been covered with aluminum foil.
|A perfectly "done" pumpkin|
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Scatter the seeds on a sheet pan in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 7 minutes and stir. Bake for another 7 minutes (or until seeds start to look dry and crispy).