Although Halloween is still a month away, supermarkets and market stalls are beginning to be dominated by the autumnal flouro-glow of the mighty pumpkin. They range from the adorably diminutive ‘munchkin pumpkin’ that sits comfortably in the palm of my hand right through to the bulbous orange colossus currently occupying a good square metre of floor in my local greengrocer.
Now, I feel rather sorry for these gorgeous gourds. The vast majority of the pumpkins on sale this month are destined to be hacked into grotesque and goulish guises (of varying levels of ineptitude), have a candle shoved up their bums and be banished to the front door step to languish awhile before being unceremoniously tossed in the bin come November. This is a ridiculous waste of something so delicious and wholesome, and moreover it is a waste of stupendously epic proportions. According to The Independent, we Brits throw away on average 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin each year (the weight of 1,500 double decker buses).
I find this wastage utterly mind-boggling. Pumpkins (and their squashy siblings) are delicious and incredibly versatile. From savoury salads, curries, risottos and tagines to deliciously sweet pies, pancakes, fritters and cakes there is almost nothing that doesn’t benefit from the addition of our pumpkin pals. No doubt as the month progresses I will be sharing many more squash recipes, but for now here is a warming and simple soup made with honey-drizzled pumpkin; oven-roasted with fat cloves of garlic and a generous scattering of thyme. It is silky smooth and comforting with an almost butterscotchy earthiness, made extra luxurious by a final glug of rich double cream and a scattering of toasted seeds.
I really hope that, like me, you make it your mission this month to prove that the humble pumpkin is so much more than just a Jack O’Lantern. I know it can be daunting to cut up, but as we all manage perfectly well when it comes to carving a wonky Jack Skellington likeness come Halloween, I’m sure we can manage a simple dice. So make the most of the glut of gourds in the shops at the moment and get your hands on the good ones before the hoards descend at the end of the month, because they are too good to waste and – as literally no one has ever said – the early bird catches the pumpkin.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Honey and Thyme
Preheat your oven to 200c/gas mark 6/400 Fahrenheit
- 1 medium pumpkin
- 4 large cloves garlic (unpeeled)
- 3 tbsp runny honey
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Small bunch of thyme
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1 medium Spanish onion
- 700ml hot vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer chicken)
- Salt and pepper
- 80ml double cream
- handful of toasted mixed seeds
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and remove the tough skin (use a potato peeler). Cut the pumpkin into wedges about 2 cm thick. Place on a baking tray along with the garlic cloves, drizzle over the olive oil and honey. Toss to coat evenly, season liberally with salt and pepper and scatter a few sprigs of thyme over the top. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender, stirring halfway.
Once the pumpkin is ready, melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the diced onion. Sweat the onion until soft before adding the pumpkin. Take two of the roasted garlic cloves and squeeze out the soft flesh and add this to the pan. Pour over the stock, throw in a few more sprigs of thyme (I tie these together like a bouquet garnis), season to taste and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the thyme before blitzing the soup in a blender until silky smooth. Return to the pan to warm and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too thick then add a little more stock. Transfer to serving bowls and top with a tablespoon of double cream, a scattering of toasted seeds and parsley.