Pumpkin ? Winter Squash ? To be honest, I’ve never been too sure of the difference, but I love them both, especially cut into chunks and roasted – a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, but even better as  the basis of  this delicious soup !

When we first arrived in Italy, I was utterly underwhelmed with the quality of the pumpkins most commonly-found in our local shops. Vast, watery, fibrous slices of nothingness.

I now grow my own – which is easy and gives you the bonus extra of those big edible yellow flowers that you can stuff and deep-fry – but, especially in the UK, pretty well all supermarkets sell those acorn-shaped Butternut squashes, which are just fine for this recipe.

The list of ingredients for this roast pumpkin soup could hardly be be any shorter.
For two people, you’ll need:
– 500g of peeled pumpkin.
– 1 litre of good chicken or vegetable stock. For this particular recipe, home-made is best – or you can buy good bottled and gel stocks in supermarkets.

After peeling your pumpkin – a potato-peeler does the job perfectly – cut it in half; scoop out the seeds and and any fibrous bits and throw them away; cut each of the two halves into two of three chunks; put them in a roasting tray; pour over a tablespoon or two of olive oil and ensure each chunk is coated; then put into an oven heated to 200˚C and roast – turning once or twice – for about 50 minutes.

By this time, your chunks will be soft and attractively flecked with golden brown.

Why roast them ? Pumpkins contain a lot of water, which is cooked-out when they’re roasted, concentrating the flavours and caramelising the veggie’s natural sugars. This reduces it to a perfect sweet fudginess.

Roast Pumpkin SoupThe roasting process also turns the colour of the pumpkin’s flesh to a rich, deep orange, which makes the soup look extremely appetising too.

At this point, put the pumpkin chunks and half the stock into a food processor and bltz until smooth. If the result’s a little thick for your taste, add more stock until you get your preferred consistency.

Or, if you don’t have a processor, simmer the chunks in half the stock until really soft, then use a hand-blender. Again, add more stock as required.

Some salt and black pepper to taste; reheat (but don’t allow it to boil) – and that’s basically it.

But not quite…

Though this soup’s very good just as it is, there’s a whole host of little extras that can make it outstanding. – before roasting, rub a half-teaspoon of Five Spice Powder; or Ground Cumin Seeds; or Ground Cinnamon; or Mixed Spice into the raw pumpkin chunks along with the oil.

And to serve, add one or two of the following:
– a dollop of cream; creme fraiche; fromage frais; or plain yoghurt
– chopped, toasted hazelnuts or almonds
– chopped crispy bacon or pancetta
– finely grated parmesan
– croutons

This actually gives you a vast number of flavourful permutations But resist the temptation to add everything. More is not necessarily better !