Pumpkin Soup; Australia’s favourite!

Taste Magazine” crowned Pumpkin Soup, Australia’s number 1 favourite soup!

It’s hard not to love the warm, velvety delight of classic Pumpkin Soup, especially with a slice of warm crusty bread fresh from the bakery. There are so many variations on this traditional dish; how do you know which is the “best”? Some recipes say to roast the pumpkin, others to boil it. Do you add cream or not?

Ultimately, what makes the “best” Pumpkin Soup will be a matter of personal taste. You might consider looking for recipes that include some of the following ingredients that make for classic pairings with pumpkin; butter; cinnamon; cream; ginger; nutmeg; and, sage.

But to who do we owe gratitude for the creation of Pumpkin Soup?

Pumpkin is native to Central America. Archaeologists found evidence of pumpkin cultivation in the Oazaca Highlands of Mexico from 7500 years ago.

Some argue that the origins of Pumpkin Soup derive from Haiti, with a dish called “Soup Joumou,” which translates to “pumpkin soup.” Soup Joumou is said to have been created by Haitians to celebrate Haiti’s Independence from French Colonists in 1804. The soup is made with pumpkin, beef, and an assortment of other vegetables. It is still eaten today in celebrating Haiti’s fight for freedom.

Although Soup Joumou has an important place in food history, it does not denote the origin of Pumpkin Soup, with recipes appearing in European cookbooks decades earlier. ‘The Professed Cook’ published in England 1776, offered a recipe for “Pompkin Soup,” which identified it as a French dish and is more akin to what we associate Pumpkin Soup with today.

Nonetheless, pumpkin soup may still have found its origins in Haiti. The Spanish began transporting African slaves to their colonies in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1517. Squash has long held a place in traditional African cuisine. Perhaps African slaves recognised pumpkins’ similarities with squash and used it as an alternative in their traditional recipes, such as Squash Soup?

On the other hand, Squash Soup is no stranger to French cuisine. A recipe for “Congordes,” or gourds in pottage, appears in ‘Le Viandier de Taillevent,’ written around 1300. France only colonised Haiti in 1664 and was not likely aware of any Pumpkin Soup that may have been created by the African slaves there until that time. Pumpkin made its way across the Atlantic after the European colonisation of Central America. Pumpkin had arrived in France by the early 16th Century; a prayer book made around 1508 for the duchess of Brittany, Anne de Bretangne, describes pumpkins. So it may be that the French also adapted pumpkin to their version of Squash Soup?

For all we know, Pumpkin Soup may have evolved in the two cultures independently around the same time. Or perhaps its creation has been lost in the mists of time with the passing of Central American indigenous cultures who had cultivated pumpkins for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. We may never know!

Not all pumpkins are the same, and some lend themselves better for roasting than boiling. Pumpkins typically available at Australian supermarkets include Kent (Jap), Jarradale, and Butternut. 

Kent (Jap) pumpkins are sweet and have a firm texture, and are better for roasting.

Jarradale pumpkins are versatile, mild in flavour, and can be boiled or roasted.

Butternut pumpkins are not pumpkins at all but are a type of squash. They are sweet and nutty in flavour and are excellent roasted. 

To achieve a greater depth of flavour, cook the pumpkin between 140 to 165°C (285-330°F). If cooking in a pot rather than roasting, it’s important not to add stock to a pot until the pumpkin has developed its flavour. Cooking at temperatures greater than 165°C (330°F) begins to caramelise natural sugars in the pumpkin that add new flavours.  

One of my favourite memories of pumpkin soup was a Pumpkin and Duck Soup I had on a visit to Clover Cottage in Melbourne’s outer south-east. Clover Cottage was synonymous with fine dining, offering a four-course banquet in an opulent Victorian-style dining room, complete with a grand pianist. Dinner would begin with a selection of hors d’oeuvres, followed by soup. For the main course, guests made their way to the buffet where the maître d’ would describe each dish on offer. It was such a feast that diners were encouraged to stroll in the gardens after the main course to make room for the dessert buffet. Sadly the closing of Clover Cottage in 2016 after 40 years signified the end of an era in Melbourne dining. 

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients
  • 2 kg Butternut pumpkin
  • 2 Brown onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 100g Butter
  • 1tbls Curry powder
  • 2 cups Chicken stock
  • 300ml Full Cream
Method

1. Melt butter in a stockpot over low heat. Add sliced onions and minced garlic, and sweat until translucent. Add curry powder and combine.

2. Peel and de-seed Butternut pumpkin. Cut into chunks and add to stockpot. Combine with onion mixture. Cover pot and allow to cook until soft. Stir regularly to ensure no sticking on the bottom of the stockpot. Maintain temperature at 140 to 165°C (285-330°F) (Can be tested with thermometer).

3. Gently mash pumpkin in the stockpot. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Blend pumpkin mixture in batches. For a smoother texture, use an upright blender rather than a stick blender. Add cream while blending to get the desired thickness for the soup

5. Return blended soup to a pot, and simmer over low heat. Season to taste.

I have added slices of succulent duck breast to my soup in tribute to my visit to Clover Cottage all those years ago.

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