Pumpkins are in the shops again! What better way to use them than in a thick and creamy pumpkin soup. Packed with immune-supporting benefits, this pumpkin soup is simple to prepare and delivers a taste that will be bringing you back for more. The basic recipe also doubles up as an easy sauce, which can be flavoured with other mild spices or herbs. Add a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander for example, and it becomes a tasty mild ‘curry’ base – great for those on an ‘anti-Candida’ diet. This is perfect for adding cooked chickpeas and red peppers to serve over whole grain basmati or cauliflower rice.
It is so sad that this versatile vegetable is available for only one month of the year. If you grow your own pumpkins, or want to buy several while they are in stock, store them in a cool place such as a garage or unheated spare room. It is best to place them upside down on some cardboard, with the stalk on the bottom. Stored in this way they may last for 3-4 months. This creates a wider window of opportunity to use this delicious and nutritious vegetable.
Pumpkin flesh reminds me of marrow in consistency. It is slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates than marrow, but about 1/3 less calories and carbs than butternut squash. This makes pumpkin ideal for those wanting to monitor their calorie intake, or keep a check on carbohydrates. It is a perfect vegetable for anyone on the anti-Candida diet, and to date I have never come across anyone with a sensitivity or intolerance reaction to it!
As with most veggies, pumpkin boasts a broad cross-section of nutrients, the star being beta carotene. This phytonutrient can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta Carotene is an antioxidant, therefore it is beneficial in all areas of health, as it helps to ‘mop up’ oxidants that are produced as a result of the wear and tear of life. Antioxidants encourage building and maintaining a healthy immune status. If we are fighting any kind of infection – antioxidants can help counter any cell damage caused.
Along with the vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin, I have added two key ingredients to this soup recipe: garlic and ginger.
Garlic contains a number of bioactive compounds, the most well-known being allicin. These compounds have been found to possess antimicrobial properties. As such, garlic may be beneficial to fight a wide variety of bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Garlic has a reputation for supporting immune health, so adding a number of fresh garlic cloves to the recipe may be a good idea as we move towards the colder months. If you don’t have fresh garlic to hand, or you are too unwell to use too many ingredients, using plenty of dried garlic will also work in the recipe.
Ginger, one of my favourite spices, is another vegetable bursting with beneficial properties. Over 115 constituents have been found in fresh and dried ginger, the main ones being gingerols. Bode and Dong in ‘Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects’, provide a summary of some of ginger’s benefits:
Research data indicate that ginger and its constituents accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract, which supports the many observations of ginger’s effectiveness as an antinausea agent and as a possible colon cancer-preventing compound. Ginger acts as a potent antioxidant … Ginger appears to exert anti-inflammatory effects … The most common use of ginger is to alleviate the vomiting and nausea associated with pregnancy, chemotherapy, and some types of surgery.
Again, my recipe uses fresh ginger, but if you don’t have any to hand, a pinch of dried ginger can be used.
Serve topped with cooked butterbeans or pumpkin seeds for protein. My favourite is to sprinkle ground sunflower seeds over the soup. Stir through for a delicious creaminess! Add a sprinkle of dried or fresh chives, or a dash of mild paprika.