So I lied. I’m always promoting that I create simple, quick, easy-to-follow, and delicious recipes. This time around I made something a bit more complicated, but it’s more the length of time it took to prepare and cook.
We had a large pumpkin that we didn’t use to make a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I certainly wasn’t going to let it go to waste. A few weeks ago I created my spicy coconut pumpkin slices and as much as I wanted to repeat that recipe, it was time to make something new.
A friend had given me a few cups of chicken soup stock that was in my freezer. Keeping with the coconut theme, I grabbed a can of coconut milk from my kitchen cupboard and considered spices. Just using pumpkin for a soup seemed boring. When I was out buying groceries the leeks looked beautiful and fresh, so I knew I found my combination. I also had shallots on hand from a dinner party a couple of weeks ago.
The size of this pumpkin was definitely a bit daunting. It was challenging to cut through and it took more time to do the cleaning and cutting into slices. It completely filled my largest baking tray. Generally speaking a flavorful soup takes time to prepare, especially if you’re cooking all of the ingredients from scratch. Roasting a squash will take 50-60 minutes, and in the case of this recipe, the large pumpkin took 1.5 hours.
If I was making this soup again, and if I wanted to make an easier variation, I would use a butternut squash. Instead of roasting it I would peel it, chop it into cubes, and then cook it in the soup pot with the liquid. Check out my veal butternut squash slow cooker stew as an example – minus the veal if you want to purée the soup.
A note about leeks
Leeks are a dirty vegetable. No matter how nice and clean they look, glistening with water droplets in the vegetable aisle in the grocery store, inside they are filled with dirt. Just take a look:
This is what my leeks looked like cut in half before washing – and this was surprisingly clean! Spend the time holding the leeks under cold-running water, opening up all of the layers and allowing the dirt to flush out. Notice the dirt in this next picture?
This was after a thorough first rinse and there was still dirt. You definitely don’t want to be crunching on soil or sand in this delicious soup, so make sure your leeks are absolutely clean.
Bulk Cooking Workflow
If you’re going to cook this pumpkin and leek soup recipe as part of your bulk meal plan for the week, here’s my suggestion for workflow:
Pre-heat the oven. Prepare the pumpkin and put it in the oven. Next, prepare the leeks. Allow the pumpkin to cook on it’s own in the oven for at least 30 minutes add the leeks. The leeks will take 30-45 minutes to cook, whereas the pumpkin will take 1-1.5 hours.
If you’re cooking something else on your menu that takes a while to cook, work on that next. For example, I cooked sweet potatoes and the leeks at the same time the pumpkin slices were in the oven. The size of the pumpkin definitely increased the demand for heat in the oven and slowed down the expected cooking time. The more you fill your oven, the longer it takes to re-heat and to cook everything inside. Once the pumpkin is done, take it out and start your next batch of cooking.
Lastly, the pumpkin I had was large. It made at least 10 cups of cooked pumpkin! I think a medium to medium-large pumpkin would have been perfect. When you make this recipe the only thing you might need to adjust is the amount of liquid if you’re using a small or medium-small pumpkin. Reduce the stock by 1 cup and the coconut milk by ½-1 cup. The chicken stock really added to the flavour of my soup, but you can always use vegetable stock or filtered water.
3largeleeksuse the white parts and a bit of the greens
3cupsveggie stockOr use water
1tspnutmegI grated half of a whole nutmeg
Heat your oven to 375°F. Wash the outside of the pumpkin to remove any dirt. Carefully cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and strings.
Cut in half into large slices. With the size my pumpkin, I cut the half into six slices. Arrange the slices on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Place the pan on the second to bottom rack in the oven. Cooking time will range between 1-1.5 hours depending on the size of you pumpkin.
Cut the roots off the leeks and then cut down the length. Rinse them in a sink with cold water under a running faucet. You will need to separate the layers with your fingers to rinse the dirt. Be prepared to do a thorough job! Leeks hold a surprisingly dirty.
Once washed, slice the leeks in half and place and remove any of the very thick top green parts. These tend to be tough to eat.
Line another roasting pan lined with parchment paper. You can roast them dry or drizzle over some sesame oil.
The leeks will be done in 30-45 minutes. They should have a wilted appearance. Remove from the oven and let them cool. If you've followed this sequence, the pumpkin should have been cooking for at least 45 minutes and will need another 30-45 minutes cooking time.
Use a meat fork or a regular fork to test the pumpkin for doneness. The fork will slide in easily when done. Note: let the pumpkin cook a bit longer. You want it to be very soft to make it easier to remove. When done, remove from the oven and let cool.
Next, remove the skins from the shallots and garlic and chop coarsely. Add to a large stock pot with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and sauté on medium heat until the shallots start to brown.
Coarsely chop the cooled leeks but be careful not to slip with your knife, because the leeks will be greasy from the oil. Add to the pot with the spices and half of the liquid.
Once the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh from the skin. Use a sharp knife to slide just above the skin. Chop into chunks and use a large spoon to scrape the pumpkin skin and and add the pot.
Add as much of the remaining liquid to just come to the level with the pumpkin in the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for about15-20 minutes. The pumpkin should be very soft at this point.
Ladle the soup into a blender and fill half-way. Cover and blend until smooth. Transfer the purée into a large mixing bowl and repeat. Once all the soup has been blended, stir the purée well to evenly distribute. Portion into storage containers or serve immediately. This soup freezes well.
Topping options for soup: fresh cubed avocado, crispy pieces of bacon, sautéed onion, or whole fat yogurt. Top with freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt.