I wanted something simple. I wanted something quick. I wanted something that would make me feel virtuous after the excesses of Christmas. But I didn’t want something that tasted virtuous. That would have been going too far. I also needed a way to use up the huge slice of pumpkin that had been lurking menacingly in the fridge for days.
Pumpkin is a very popular vegetable in Sicily, although despite this it crops up in a strangely limited range of recipes, and soup isn’t one of them, so I can hardly claim this is traditional. The smoked paprika and smoked sea salt aren’t, either, not by a long shot, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re essential. Pumpkin is just too sweet for me au naturel, and needs something to offset it. Here, it’s often served fried in a sweet and sour dressing, for example. Otherwise, it needs a touch of something salty like pancetta and/or spice. But seeing as I was being virtuous, bacon was out of the question, so spice it was. If you have no such misplaced aspirations to sainthood, I imagine that some lardons, fried until crisp and then drained, would be the perfect garnish here.
Like all soups, the amounts listed are more guidelines than anything else. Homemade soup production is not an exact science. All I can say is that these proportions worked for me. The quantities are for a crowd, I know. But like I said, I had to use up a huge slab of pumpkin, and in any case, leftovers freeze well, so no worries.
I am well aware that the finished product, which seems just a touch too orange to be natural, looks like it would be at home on the kitchen table of the Simpsons, but that, of course, is perhaps part of its charm…
- 900g pumpkin or butternut squash (peeled weight), roughly chopped
- 400g potatoes (peeled weight), roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- Leaves from a sprig or two each of fresh thyme, rosemary and mint
- 1.5 litres light vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Smoked sea salt to taste
- Put all the ingredients except the tomato purée, paprika and salt in a heavy pan with a lid. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender (about 25 minutes). Stir in the tomato purée and paprika. Liquidise using a hand blender.
- Season to taste with smoked sea salt.