Monday, August 5, 2013

Winter Feast : Heston’s (really good) pumpkin soup

A winter’s night feast!

New dinner party time – with three whole Heston recipes! And yes, in hindsight I probably did take on too much, but I knew it was a dinner for very forgiving friends – you know the kind – they happily try out stuff you made and accept the failures and cheer the triumphs as part of the journey.

This dinner, coming in the middle of winter was an excellent time to try out dishes best suited to a cold night. So we had:
  • Pumpkin soup
  • Fish pie with Sand and Sea topping
  • Lardy cake


Soup: Pumpkin Soup

(from Heston Blumenthal at Home)

I love a relatively low effort dish. I say relatively, because this one can scale in complexity, depending on how many of the “optional” components you add. But even if you do all the extras, the effort is still very manageable. And tasty. Did I mention tasty?

So this has the following steps:
  1. Prep your pumpkin.
  2. Roast half the pumpkin, pan cook the other half with onion
  3. Make rosemary flavoured milk
  4. Add the items from 1-3 plus water and cook in a pan.
  5. Puree it.
  6. Make your extras.
  7. Prep your plates, and serve.
 So yes, there are seven steps, but really there’s nothing super complicated about this.

I did everything up to the making of the extras (and some of them) the day before because I was making fish pie on the day of the party, and as you’ll see in my next post, that was a seriously crazy amount of work.

Prep your pumpkin

Take your lovely pumpkin. (I only needed half a pumpkin to get the 850g of flesh required).
Use a mandolin to slice half thinly, and chop the half into fat cubes for roasting. I also used the mandolin to quickly slice up those three onions, since it was out anyway.

Cook your pumpkin

The cubes of pumpkin go in the oven while you melt a staggering amount of butter. Well, it is Heston after all. 

Add in your thin sheets of pumpkin and onion and get them going. Or get bored waiting for the butter to completely melt, and put them all in anyway. 
Cook until soft and golden and smell really great.

Check out the delicious roasted pumpkin!

Make rosemary milk

Those people familiar with the process of making infused milk for ice-cream purposes will know this bit. Heat up your milk until almost simmering, take it off the heat, bung in your rosemary and then leave to infuse. You may be surprised how much flavour the milk can take on doing this.

Once it’s done infusing, strain out the rosemary, leaving savoury-smelling milk. Interesting. (I’m far too used to it smelling like vanilla my brain was getting mixed feelings about that as a result).

Into the pot!

In goes all the pumpkin, onion and rosemary-scented milk. Simmer away, you.


Puree it

I really need to get onto a new stab blender at some point. But  it works, so never mind! Make sure it’s really smooth. You are supposed to pass through a fine sieve. I may have done this, or not. I can’t recall.

You do then get to make Jackson Pollock-inspired designs as you add in cayenne, salt, sesame oil and balsamic. Isn’t it pretty? Then puree it away. (Never mind, art can be transient, and more beautiful for it). This is done to taste. I know some found the suggested quantity of sesame oil too overpowering. I used probably half the listed sesame oil and three quarters of the balsamic. And got my super-tasting husband to check the balance.

Make your extras

In this case, four extras. Red pepper (capsicum) diamonds, roasted red pepper oil, hazelnut dust and brown butter.

Roasted capsicum (peppers)

Heston has another variant on another trick I’ve seen for roasting (or rather peeling) roasted capsicum.

Cut up your capsicum, and grill until skins are nicely blackened.
Put them (hot) into a bowl and cover with cling film. (I’d seen this done as putting them into a plastic freezer bag, but I like the bowl version better). Leave them to cool.  Once cool you can just pull off the skins pretty easily, leaving the deliciously sweet flesh. Yum.

Cut some into diamond shapes.

Red pepper (capsicum) oil

Pretty straightforward – take some roasted capsicum and lots of olive oil.

Blend it.

Strain it either with a reasonable sieve or, do what I did and very carefully strain it in stages through a tea strainer into a mug.

Ok, it worked, but was pretty fiddly and I had to be super careful not to spill any non-sieved oil into the mug.  Just a note, you need hardly any of this to serve, so make the smallest quantity that seems reasonable to you. Seriously, you need a few drops per person.

Hazelnut dirt  (Hazelnut and rosemary mixture)

Hazelnut and rosemary mixture is what Heston seems to call it, but it looks just like dirt. Or maybe fine sand. Albeit tasty dirt. Really, its just toasted hazelnuts, fresh rosemary and dry breadcrumbs whizzed into powder. I thought it would be oily somehow, but nope. (Excuse the bunnikins bowl, I started running out of grown up bowls to hold all the components for assembly there. I’ll trust you’ll forgive the lack of gravity this brings).

Brown butter

So this isn’t difficult, but does have an excellent tip from Heston for improving your brown butter.
Cook your butter until a nice nut-brown colour in a little frypan or saucepan.

Then, filter it through a coffee filter.

This worked really well! Other than being a tad messy, it produces a beautiful clear brown butter without any clumps or browned solid bits – just beautifully clear brown butter.

Prep your plates

Something that takes this dish into the above the ordinary (or “pumpkin-flavoured water” as one guest called most pumpkin soup) is the extras.

Warm up your brown butter, and using a pastry brush, surround the tops of your bowls with a thick-ish rim of butter.

Now, much like flouring a cake pan, sprinkle on your hazelnut dirt. I’ve heard from a friend she had trouble making hers stick but mine seemed to stick without a problem.

Add in some pumpkin seeds (often labelled as pepita) and some of the roasted capsicum diamonds.


Aerate the soup with your stab blender and ignore the bemusement from your guests when they ask what you are doing. Ladle in the soup carefully to the bowls and dot on some of the red capsicum oil.
(This is a seriously bad photo, sorry. It was a lovely orange colour, with dots of deep red. Photo editing couldn't fix it either.!) 


A successful dish. The flavour was really very good, and the combination of roasted and sautéed pumpkin plus the sesame oil and balsamic gave it a real depth of flavours going on.  The pumpkin seeds and roasted capsicum pieces also added to the dish far more than I thought they would.

You could probably skip the roasted capsicum oil, but since you want the roasted capsicum pieces, its really not much more effort. I’d certainly make this again, especially if pumpkin was in season.

Guest verdict

This was a very popular dish, especially considering it is, superficially at least, fairly standard fare. Many guests opted for second helpings, and many nice things were said. Including one convert from a non-pumpkin soup loving (the “pumpkin soup just tastes like pumpkin-flavoured water” gentleman) to being second-helping seeking happy guest. (His other half was most impressed). If that’s not endorsement, I’m not sure what it would take!

Next post: Fish pie. The most complicated Heston dish I’ve yet undertaken.

As an aside: Have you been watching Heston on Masterchef? I'm envious. How awesome would that be to cook with him?! Plus, I want to play with all their kitchen toys. Smoking gun? Yes please! Liquid nitrogen? I used to use that in a previous job, I'm totally there.


  1. I want this soup so much! But without the capsicums, please. Seriously, just drooling at the keyboard here. It even outdrools all the lolly shop desserts I was drooling over before... *delighted shiver*

    BTW, I have never used a mandolin slicer. Is it easy? Worth getting one? My knife skills suck and it seems the food processor is just too enthusiastic for some jobs.

  2. "Never mind, art can be transient, and more beautiful for it". Nicely put.

    I think I'll have a bash at this now it has the Kita stamp of approval. xxJ