After Hallowe’en you could be forgiven if you were sick of the sight of pumpkins, but they give a wonderful autumnal flavour and texture to this spicy main course soup.
I often find winter squash too sweet on their own, so I’ve given the soup some earthy body with a scoop of lentils, sharpened it with pickled lemon and added a chilli buzz in the form of harissa.
These North African flavours will warm you right down to your socks, although if you’re cooking for kids you might want to serve the harissa separately for people to stir in at the table.
Pumpkin Soup with Harissa and Pickled Lemon
1 small butternut squash
2 small to medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, de-stringed, trimmed and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Oil, salt and pepper
180g red lentils
1 or 2 pickled lemons (to taste), halved, de-seeded, the flesh chopped and the peel thinly slivered and reserved for garnish
Up to 1.2 litres vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsp harissa paste
Coriander (optional but good)
Ras el hanout or paprika (optional, for the seeds)
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
This is by far the easiest way to roast squash I’ve found. It makes it much easier to peel and de-seed. Top and tail the squash, cut horizontally into thick slices (about 4cm) and place in a single layer in a roasting tin. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until it’s soft to the tip of a knife.
Remove, and once cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and surrounding fibrous strings, and pare off the skin. Pick out the seeds and put them on a plate to dry out. Dice the flesh.
Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and fry onions and celery, sprinkled with a little salt, until soft and golden. Stir them occasionally but don’t rush this bit, you want that depth of flavour. Add the garlic and fry a few minutes more.
Pour in the lentils and stir to coat. Add the chopped pumpkin, pickled lemon flesh and a litre of the stock. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.
While the soup is cooking and if you’d like to use the seeds, toss them with a little oil if necessary: they may already be coated from their earlier roasting. Mix with half a teaspoon of ras el hanout or paprika (sweet or hot, your choice) and toast gently in a dry pan, stirring often, until they’re golden. Set aside.
Once the lentils are tender, you can leave either leave the soup’s texture as it is, or use a stick blender to whizz it to your desired thickness. I like to leave a few chunky pieces. Add more hot stock if it’s too thick. Stir in the harissa and check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and fresh lemon or lime juice if necessary.
Serve garnished with the slivered rind of the pickled lemon, the toasted pumpkin seeds if using and if you have it handy, fresh coriander.