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By Belinda Jeffery

This recipe makes rather a lot of soup, however it freezes wonderfully well and I love knowing that I have it on hand for something quick and good to eat on those days when I forget to think about what were going to have for dinner (and, as a cook, theyre more frequent than I care to admit!).

+ Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
3 heaped teaspoons ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon of your favourite curry paste (I use Pataks Tikka Masala paste)
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto (or regular tomato paste)
2 ½ kg pumpkin (preferably butternut or Kent), peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
400g can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1.75 litres water
270ml light coconut cream
Juice ½-1 lemon, to taste

Herb leaves (tarragon or coriander are lovely) and flowers, optional, to serve

+ Method

Warm the olive oil in a very large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook them, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Now add the garlic, ginger and chillies and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Scoop in the spices, curry paste and tomato pesto or paste and cook, stirring all the while, for another minute or so to release their fragrance. I love doing this as the warm aroma of the spices smells brilliant.

Tumble in the pumpkin and give it a good swizzle around so it is coated in the spicy mixture (you will need a bit of elbow grease to do this as there is rather a lot of pumpkin). Finally, add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and water. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to the boil, then reduce the heat to low so it bubbles gently. Partly cover the pan and cook the soup for 35-40 minutes, or until the pumpkin is very tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly, then puree it in batches in a blender, or with a stick blender in the pan. Gently re-heat it then stir in the coconut cream, keeping a little bit back for serving. Taste the soup and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.

To serve the soup, ladle it into warm bowls. Dribble a little of the reserved coconut cream over the top, along with a good grinding of black pepper and a few tarragon leaves and flowers, if using. Serves 8.

The good grind¦

Spices always taste best if freshly ground - you really can notice the flavour difference. A mortar and pestle is a great way to grind them but it takes quite a bit of arm work. If, like me, you often use them in your cooking it may be worth investing in a small, electric coffee grinder. Theyre fantastic for grinding whole spices to a powder in no time (just dont use the grinder for coffee beans afterwards or youll have a very interesting brew!).

Photography by Rodney Weidland.