The end of November has almost arrived and with winter ahead, colder days are slowly creeping to Provence, anxiously awaiting their debut. The season of autumn has brought with it brisk air, changing colors and a new array of produce at the markets. Named after their musky perfume and native to this region, the fairytale inspired pumpkins, Musquée de Provence, have arrived. Gorgeous, flat and heavily ribbed with skins that turn to an orange, brown, blue, green, yellow color when ripe, these pumpkins would just as beautifully adorn your home as they do your bowl. The flesh is a rich shade of orange, dense, slightly sweet and full flavored making it a perfect pumpkin for pies or in this case soup. With Thanksgiving here and pumpkins in full season, this is the perfect time to warm up your home with this traditional Provençal recipe, passed onto me from my mother-in-law, Simone.
Growing-up, I have memories as a young girl eating chicken and stars whenever I was home from school sick or a bowl of my mom's homemade chicken and rice soup on a blustery winter day in Vermont. Soup is a gesture of love. It is welcoming. Nothing is more nourishing for mind, body and soul than bowl of hot soup on a cold or rainy day. Soup is warming, soothing and comforting. There is indeed a reason that chicken soup is for the soul.
Over the years my love for soup has grown, the warmness and nostalgia it brings along with the ease in making it. The beauty of soup is that there are so many options to really please any palate. This is probably one of the easiest recipes that I have ever made; the only task really lies within peeling the heavily lobed skin. The main ingredient, basically the only ingredient, in this soup is the pumpkin so it is brimming with a rich pumpkin flavor and finishes with a smooth, velvety texture. A typical fall Provençal fare, this soup is simple and pure, flavorful and seasonal in autumn.
While I tend to prefer heartier, thicker soups, this one can be made as thick or thin as you prefer. Experiment with the spices and toppings to make the recipe fit your taste buds. I opted for curry, thickened the soup with soy cream and topped with some of the pumpkin seeds that I roasted in olive oil and salt. I always add a dash of red pepper flakes or chili oil, incorporating a little spicy heat. Whatever variety of soup person that you are this is a versatile recipe that can just as easily be served as a starter or as the main course. Paired with crispy bread and a glass of wine or cuddled up in your PJ’s in front of the fire, I hope this soup will bring the nostalgia of the season to your heart and a taste of Provence to your home…. bon appétit!
Provençal Pumpkin Soup
1 pumpkin, peeled and seeded with the flesh cut into cubes
1-3 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons curry, turmeric, nutmeg or ginger
Soy cream to taste
Pumpkin seeds, olive oil and salt
1. Using a sharp knife cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Peal the halves and cut the pumpkin flesh into 1-2 inch chunks. Hold the pumpkin seeds aside if you opt for roasting them.
2. Add the pumpkin to a large stockpot and add enough water to cover about 1/3 of the pumpkin flesh. Make sure to not add to much water or to fully immerse the pumpkin otherwise the soup will be too watery. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Bring the water to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pumpkin is very soft, about 20-30 minutes.
4. Puree using an immersion blender, before beginning make sure there is not too much liquid to avoid watery soup. I actually removed some of the liquid and held aside to add after puréeing as needed.
5. Add your seasoning of choice and adjust to your taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.
6. Add soy cream to thicken and adjust according to taste. Mix thoroughly with the immersion blender.
7. To serve, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and soy cream (or crème fraiche, if preferred) and roasted pumpkin seeds.
8. For the pumpkin seeds, clean with water and dry. Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 350F for about 10-15 minutes or just until crisp.