candied pumpkin seeds… and squash and fennel soup

the other soup i’ve been eating is suzanne goin’s squash and fennel soup with crème fraiche and candied pumpkin seeds.

it’s the candied pumpkin seeds that really make this so, if you plan to make any sort of squash or pumpkin soup i think you should give these a try.

as you’d expect, the soup has a real sweetness to it, which comes from the roasted squash (i used butternut) but this is balanced by the underlying fennel flavour, which makes a change from the more usual flavours that accompany squash and pumpkin in soups.

the crème fraiche obviously helps lighten this even further but all the flavours are accentuated by the pumpkin seeds which are toasted with butter, sugar, honey and spices (cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and paprika) so they are coated in a crispy crunchy spicy caramel layer. absolutely wonderful. i think you need both the crème fraiche and the seeds for the recipe to really shine and i’m looking forward to trying the seeds with other squash soup recipes (they’d be nice in winter salads too)

as an aside, i read a few blog posts about people adding extra sweet stuff to this recipe, such as maple syrup, which is horribly unappealing – it’s more than sweet enough!

suzanne goin's squash and fennel soup with crème fraiche and candied pumpkin seeds

1kg kabocha squash (i used butternut squash)

2 bulbs of fennel

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large onions, sliced

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 chillies de arbol (i used fresh red chillies)

1 bay leaf

180ml sherry

2 ½ litres cups chicken or vegetable stock or water

120ml crème fraiche

candied pumpkin seeds (see below)

salt and freshly ground pepper

preheat oven to 200c. cut squash in half lengthwise. remove seeds and peel from squash and cut into inch thick wedges. cut the fennel in half lengthwise and cut into 1 inch wedges. toss the squash and fennel with olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper. place the vegetables flat on a baking sheet and roast about 35 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelised.

toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat until the seeds become fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 or 3 minutes. pound them coarsely in a mortar.

heat a large saucepan over high heat for 2 minutes. add the butter and when it foams, add the onions, fennel seeds, thyme, chillies, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. reduce the heat to medium high and cook until the onions are translucent and starting to colour. add the squash and fennel, and stir to coat with the onions for a minute. turn the heat back up to high and pour in the sherry. let it reduce for a minute or two, and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt (i omitted this). bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

remove the chillies and bay leaf then puree the soup in batches until it is smooth. taste for balance and seasoning. pour soup into bowls, spoon crème fraiche into centre, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

candied pumpkin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

125g raw pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon sugar

generous pinch each: ground cinnamon, cayenne, and paprika

1 teaspoon honey


toast the cumin seeds in a small pan until the seeds are fragrant and lightly browned. pound them coarsely in a mortar.

melt the butter in the cumin pan over medium heat. add the pumpkin seeds and sugar then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt over them. toss the pumpkin seeds to coat them well with the butter, an cook a few minutes, until just after they begin to pop and colour slightly. turn off the heat, wait 30 seconds, then add the honey and toss the pumpkin seeds until they are well coated. spread on a plate and let them cool.