The Leftover Project: Easy Pumpkin Soup with Exotic Spices (Can be vegan)

images[2]You know how leftover holiday ingredients lurk in the back of your pantry? Well, today is Halloween, and I was craving pumpkin soup, but not badly enough to go the store and buy the fresh sugar pumpkin and heavy cream that most recipes call for. What I did have was a can of pumpkin puree, left over from last year’s holiday baking. All righty then! But what to use to replace the cream? How about a few potatoes for thickness, and some canned “lite” coconut milk. That’ll do nicely! Here’s what I did – no picture this time, because the finished soup is a muddy tan color, but oh-so-tasty. Want it more orange? Perhaps add more carrots.

You’ll need a stick blender for this one – I maintain that it’s too much trouble to ladle hot soup into the blender, but suit yourself. I love my stick blender for making velvety soups.

Into your large-ish soup pot, throw in one onion, a big stalk of celery, and a few peeled carrots, all roughly chopped. Sweat them in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, stirring from time to time, over medium heat. I like to put the lid on the pot between stirs to hasten the process. You want the onions to be nice and glassy – sautéing the veggies before you add the liquid results in a deeper flavor.

Next, I added about a liter and a half of chicken broth. I use the low-sodium stuff from a carton. If you wanted to make a vegan soup, you could easily substitute vegetable broth. I threw in a few medium potatoes, diced. Then I stirred in a bit more than half of a large can (29 ounce size) of pumpkin purée – NOT the presweetened pie filling, just the plain purée. I also added two cloves of garlic, minced. But what to season this with? Many recipes I looked at called for basically the same spices you’d use for pumpkin pie, and I did not want my soup to taste like pie! Lo and behold, I find at the back of my (overstuffed, disorganized) spice cupboard a tin of garam masala. A warm-and-fragrant-but-not-hot blend of Indian spices, it does contain cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, but does not smell like pie – it smells like an exotic spice market. And so I dumped in a few teaspoons of this stuff – what a wonderful smell!

I brought the pot to a boil and then lowered the heat, leaving it to simmer for 30 minutes or so. When the potato cubes and carrot bits were tender but not mushy, I pureed most of the soup with my stick blender – just stuck that sucker right into the pot and swirled it around until most of the soup was smooth. I like to leave a few chunks of potato and veg. – that makes the soup more interesting, I think.

But the soup still lacked something. Ah yes – in went half a can of “lite” coconut milk, well shaken, of course. A few more minutes of simmering, and wow! This is really tasty soup, a little different than the usual versions, very quick and easy, and a good way to use up leftover canned pumpkin. And it’s quite low in fat and calories!

But wait a minute – now I have about a cup of canned pumpkin and a cup of coconut milk. I’m thinking pumpkin pancakes, or maybe muffins. Do you have a suggestion?

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