Pumpkin soup with curried pumpkin seeds is a Maine-centric riff on a French pumpkin soup, using potatoes, leeks, and a drizzle of créme fraîche. Curried pumpkin seeds add flavor and texture while potatoes and cream give the soup a lush, velvety texture.
Whenever we walk into our pumpkin patch, we feel like we’ve stepped into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The giant leaves, prickly vines, and massive pumpkins always seem a bit unreal—especially in fall, when the pumpkins ripen and turn the garden bright orange. That’s when we feel Maine nights getting colder, and we start to crave hearty soups like this one.
Curried pumpkin seeds add a crunchy texture and spicy flavor to the soup. They’re also great on their own as a snack for a cocktail party. (To make as a snack, save 2 cups or more of the seeds, increasing the other ingredients for the curried pumpkin seeds accordingly.)–Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
WHAT PUMPKINS ARE THE BEST FOR SOUP?
Not all pumpkins will work in this lovely little recipe. Fortunately, none has ever changed drastically on us at the stroke of midnight as in Cinderella. Yet as the authors point out, most commercial pumpkins are grown for Halloween decorations and are too dry for cooking.
They suggest you frequent fall greenmarkets for “old-fashioned cooking varieties like Long Island cheese, a popular buff-colored American heirloom; Long Pie, an heirloom from northern Maine that looks like a giant zucchini; and Rouge Vif d’Etampes, the bright-orange French soup pumpkin.” Or, they say, you can substitute an equal weight of any large winter squash. Or if you’re into delayed gratification, look to seed catalogs, which carry these and many, many other varieties of pumpkins.
Pumpkin Soup with Curried Pumpkin Seeds
For the pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange preferably organic
- 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
For the soup
- 1 (about 6 pounds) pumpkin or other large winter squash
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium leeks light part only, cut into 1/4-inch rings, rinsed well and patted dry
- 2 large Yukon Gold or medium Russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche (optional)
Prepare the seeds
- Clean 1/2 cup of the pumpkin seeds of any string and flesh and spread them out on a plate. Let dry for about 1 hour. (Do not dry on paper towels, which will stick to the seeds.)
- Warm the olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the orange zest and cook for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin seeds, curry powder, turmeric, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are crisp, about 8 minutes. (You can store the curried pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Make the pumpkin soup
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and accompanying goop and set aside. Wipe the pumpkin clean and drizzle the fleshy sides of the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until it is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and scoop the flesh from the tough shell.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, reduce the heat, and cover the pan. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, chicken stock, and 2 teaspoons salt to the leeks. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are very soft when pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Working in batches, purée the potatoes and leeks with their cooking liquid and the pumpkin in a blender or with an immersion blender until very smooth. Combine the batches in a large bowl and whisk in the cream and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (You can cool, cover, and refrigerate the soup for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, warm the soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)
- Ladle the hot pumpkin soup into warm bowls. Drizzle with crème fraîche, if using, and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve at once.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This soup is delicious! The fresh pumpkin is slightly sweet and super creamy. I was concerned I wouldn’t like the pumpkin seeds, but I was mistaken; they were the perfect garnish for this silky soup. I didn’t have a 6 1/2-pound pumpkin on hand, so I used an 8-pounder that grew in our garden this summer. It took about 30 minutes longer to roast the fresh pumpkin. And it really is worth the effort to roast an actual pumpkin.
Cooking the leeks and potatoes went as written, and the blending of the soup was effortless. The seeds only took about 6 minutes or so to crisp up with the spices. The recipe makes a substantial amount of soup, but we managed to eat most of it. It’s a real treat. I only used 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, as I had young eaters. It was just the right amount of heat to bring some depth to the seeds. Also, I had a couple of cups of pumpkin leftover. It’ll be fabulous in pumpkin bread.
If you’re a pumpkin soup lover, this’ll appeal to you. The soup itself is very, very delicately flavored with leeks, and just the right amount of flavor and spice is brought in with the curried pumpkin seeds. I used the seeds of the pumpkin itself, washed, and dried.
After roasting the seeds in the pan with oil and spices I poured the whole mixture into the soup and stirred it. With every mouthful, I could really taste the sweetness of the pumpkin along with the hint of curry. A great way to add flavor to soups.
Originally published April 18, 2003