This is starts in the classic style for an autumn soup, but we do it without ever getting to the omnipresent ‘pumpkin spice’ everything when the leaves turn. We’ll save that for pie time, thank you very much. Don’t misunderstand, we like pumpkin spice, just not for every single thin that has a little pumpkin.
Pumpkin soup is a staple in Caribbean cooking. In this dish the flavors steer toward the richness of the fennel and mild fruit of the pear and some citrus to brighten things up. Even more fun, within this palette, you can still mix it up a bit with various choices. Lastly, this is an easy dish to keep as a vegetarian meal by using vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.
Unlike when poaching a pear, this recipe doesn’t call for the firm fruit structure. You can certainly use D’anjou, comice or bosc pears, all known as sturdier members of the pear family. Flavor wise, D’ajnou and comice pears both offer hints of pine and other aromatics that will blend well with the fennel and such. Bosc pears are firm, but generally carry the same flavors as the ubiquitous bartlett pears.
Our preference is to use fresh fruit. Some seasons and locales may not offer that option. If you are forced to use canned pears remember two things. Avoid heavy syrup, or even light syrup, packed in fruit juice is the best choice to minimize added sugars resulting in an overly sweet soup. Canned fruit will be soft enough that they can skip the simmering stage, just adding them at the puree stage.
If you have spent any time around kitchens, you know that there are a variety of squash that can be incorporated into really good soups. That is also true here. However, try it with the pumpkin. We say that because it is far to easy to get into the mold that pumpkin is only for pie and not much else. In the season it is typically the least expensive squash choice available, giving great yields from each pumpkin.
Most of the white or other color pumpkins still have orange or orange hued flesh when cut. Pumpkins that are bred to be pie pumpkins will also result in sweeter flavors, so be aware of that. Frankly this works just fine with the least expensive plain jane pumpkin you can find.
Tips and tricks
The flat-out easiest way to get cooked pumpkin for this dish is to cut it into big chunks, remove the seeds and chuck it in the oven with a little salt and pepper and foil over it, cook till soft, chill and scrape the flesh off the peel. The peel will be quite thin and somewhat fragile, but the amount of pumpkin meat you get is a lot.
Speaking of peels, we use orange and lemon peels in this dish. When you prepare these the goal is to get the thinnest strip of color with the least white pith attached to it. We find a good old vegetable peeler is a great tool for this job. Use a light touch and you will get nice wide but very thin strips of rind for flavoring.
Using fennel, you want just the white part of the bulbs for the soup. The bulb is very similar to celery that is more tightly wrapped together. You will want to remove the base portion as you do with celery. No need to separate the stalks, it is kind of a pain anyway, but you’ll just slice across them for slices to toss in the pan. They may separate during cooking, but that is not an issue, gather the pieces and move on. If your grocery has the full stems attached, cut them off, but reserve any of the wispy green leaves for a great looking garnish.
Pumpkin Pear and Fennel Soup
- 2 Cups Cooked pumpkin
- Salt and cracked black pepper
- 1 Fennel bulb
- 5 Tablespoons Olive oil divided
- 1 Yellow onion
- 2 Shallots
- 2 Celery stalks
- 3 Large Garlic cloves
- 1 Teaspoon Freshly grated ginger
- ½ Teaspoon Ground cumin
- ¼ Teaspoon Ground nutmeg
- 4 Cups Vegetable stock or chicken stock
- ½ Cup Dry white wine
- 3 Pears
- 1 Orange
- 1 Lemon
- Sour cream to serve
- Pepitas to serve
- Cut the pumpkin into wedges and remove the seeds
- Place the pieces skin side down on a parchment lined baking pan
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Put two Tablespoons of water in pan, cover and seal with aluminum foil
- Bake at 350 degrees until tender about 45 minutes depending on thickness
- Remove the pumpkin and place on a rack to drain
- Refrigerate overnight on the rack with enough room to drain well
- Remove stems and base from the fennel bulb
- Slice bulb into ¼“ slices
- Dice onions and shallots
- Thinly slice celery stalks and garlic cloves
- Peel ginger and grate finely
- Peel strips of orange rind
- Finely zest the lemon rind (if desired save some long zest strips for garnish)
- Juice both orange and lemon into a bowl, remove seeds if needed and set aside
- Preheat oven to 350
- Put the soup pot over medium heat with 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Cook the fennel slices in the pot until lightly browned
- Remove from the pot (keep pot on stove) and spread slices on an oven safe pan
- Cover or use aluminum foil and cook 15-20 minutes until tender
- Return pot to medium heat add 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- When sizzling add onion, shallots, celery
- When mostly cooked add garlic and ginger, cook an additional 2 minutes
- Pour all white wine directly into pot to deglaze
- When wine is cooked off about halfway add stock, cooked fennel pieces and pumpkin
- Keep over medium heat until boiling
- While the pot is coming up to temp peel, core, peel and dice the pears
- Add pear pieces to pot
- When pot has reached a soft boil add fruit rinds, juice, cumin and nutmeg
- Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for thirty minutes
- Remove orange rind, puree soup in batches with blender or food processor
- Return to pot over low heat
- Add Salt and pepper to taste
- Serve with sour cream, pepitas and optional garnishes