Pumpkin, shallot and red pepper soup

No matter how scary (or otherwise) your Jack-o'-lantern is this year, you can put it to good use in this soothing soup. It's the perfect way to warm up your engine - and rev up your energy levels - before setting out to run on cold days.

Preparation: 35 mins

Serves: 4  

  • 4 red peppers, deseeded, cut into quarters, roasted for 25 minutes and skins removed
  • 14 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 750g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Leaves of one sprig of thyme
  • 1.2l vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 280g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp chives, finely chopped
  • 30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Dollop of low-fat creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the peppers skin-side up on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove, cool and set aside. 

2 Melt 30g of butter with oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the pumpkin, red chilli and half the shallots, season with sea salt and black pepper and sweat for five to 10 minutes without browning. Add garlic and thyme, and cook on a low heat for a further minute. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the red peppers and cook  for a further five minutes.

Melt 250g of butter in a small pan over a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and the rest of the shallots, and fry until soft. Add the ground cumin and paprika, and cook the shallots for a further one to two minutes or until caramelised, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat. Season with sea salt and stir in the honey.

4 Blend the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender. Return to the pan. If it's too thick, add stock. Gently reheat. Ladle into warmed bowls. Place a spoonful of creme fraiche in each. Sprinkle with chives, toasted pumpkin seeds and the honeyed shallots.

The Skinny

Calories 176
Fat 6g
Carbs 26.2g 
Protein 5.4g

The Healthy

Prevent spikes and dips in energy with pumpkin flesh: it contains D-chiro-inositol, a substance that helps to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, according to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

As for pumpkin seeds, 30g contains half your daily recommended intake of manganese, a mineral that helps you to produce digestive enzymes needed to extract energy from your food. And a handful of seeds also does your joints a favour: their oil helps to reduce arthritic inflammation, according to a study published in Pharmacological Research.  

Shallots are the sweetest onions, and researchers at Cornell University in the US have proved that they're the most nutritious, too. The little bulbs beat other varieties in a test of cancer-fighting phenol and energy-boosting antioxidant content. 

This recipe first appeared in the November 2011 edition of the magazine. Thanks to ukshallot.com for providing the recipe and photo.