Last year I gave a friend a soup-making class for Christmas. Two hours in my kitchen, three soups to make, plenty of white wine and fresh bread, and lots to take home and freeze. She is a lovely person, but a hesitant and infrequent cook, and she was intimidated by soup-making. I wanted to encourage her, and show her that soup can be very flexible, easy to make and cheap. We had a lot of fun.
This is an easy soup to make. I often make soup on Sundays with a base of an onion, carrot and/or celery (your basic soffrito), some stock and whatever needs using up in the veg drawer. Not so easy if you do not cook much, but here in Rome it is easy to buy just what you need: two carrots, three potatoes, whatever looks nice and is in season. Add some herbs, a whizz with the hand blender, and hey presto – lunch for next week! Here, I roasted the pumpkin for flavour, and tossed in some lentils for body.
Roast pumpkin soup with red lentils
400 g of pumpkin
2-3 tsp olive oil
150 g red lentils
1 head fennel
a little parsley
1 stick of celery, with leaves
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
A small red chili, or some chili flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 vegetable stock cubes
1.5 litre of water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Start by soaking the lentils in enough water to cover them, just an hour or so before making soup. Not necessary, but it cuts down on the cooking time.
Heat the oven to 200C. Wash and roughly chop your pumpkin, and lay the pieces out on a foil-covered baking tray. Do not worry about peeling the pumpkin, it is easier to do that after it is roasted. Drizzle a little olive oil over. Roast for 20 min or so, until the pumpkin can be easily pierced.
In the meantime, roughly chop your onion, celery, the chili, garlic and fennel. (If you do not have fennel, add more celery or some carrots or another onion.) Heat 1 tsp of olive oil, toss in the veg and cinnamon, cumin and salt, and sauté lightly for a few minutes. It will smell lovely. Now, drain the soaked lentils and add them, with stock cubes and water. Take the roasted pumpkin pieces, peel them and add them to the pot. They will be hot, just use a fork and knife. Bring to the boil, and simmer 15 minutes or so.
Take off the heat, and blend soup using a hand blender. You decide if you want it smooth or chunky. Season with a little salt and pepper, it will taste different after being blended. Heat and serve. With some fresh bread on the side, this is a great lunch, and leftovers keep well in the fridge.