Pumpkin and bacon soup with sage croutons

pumpkin soup

pumpkin soupRecipe tip: This recipe helps use up leftovers.

If you’re trying to cut down on waste in the kitchen and want to make cheap and tasty food for your family, stock and soup are going to be your best kitchen friends.


Stock recipes vary depending on what ingredients you have to hand.

Everyday vegetable stock

Rather than throwing away carrot tops, onion skins, the ends of leeks and herb stalks, turn them into a vegetable stock or add some roasted bones, and make a meat stock.

Most vegetables make good stock but avoid using cauliflower, swede or cabbage. To make a stock you need to cover ingredients with water, bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer – if you boil for too long the stock will be cloudy, not clear.

Stock will keep in the fridge for about a week and can be frozen and used straight from the freezer. Stock and soup go hand in hand – a good stock is the basis of a good soup.

Here are recipes for vegetable stock using leftovers and a perfectly autumnal pumpkin and bacon soup. The addition of croutons to the soup not only adds different flavours and textures but is a terrific way of transforming stale bread into a tasty treat.

Ingredients for the stock:

2 sticks of celery, cleaned & roughly chopped
2 carrots, cleaned & roughly chopped
2 onions, peeled & roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
Few sprigs of any fresh herbs or their stalks or a pinch of dried
Glass of white wine (optional)
5 minutes preparation, 45 minutes cooking time
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan with 600ml-900ml cold water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. If bubbles or a scum start to form, skim off with a spoon or ladle and discard.  Finally, strain the stock and either use straightaway or chill or freeze for later.

Pumpkin and bacon soup with sage & pumpkin seed croutons

Many soup recipes add cream or milk towards the end of cooking to add body and a velvety texture. We prefer to use butter at the start of the recipe to get a rich texture and to let the flavours intensify slowly.

We like the soup rustic and chunky but if you prefer a smooth, velvety finish then whizz it in the liquidizer before serving.

For vegetarians the bacon can be omitted but perhaps serve the croutons spread with cream cheese or goat’s cheese to boost the flavours.

Ingredients for the soup:

2 tbsp olive oil
100g streaky smoked bacon, rind removed and snipped with scissors into 2cm lengths
1 medium onion, approx 100g, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4cm strip of lemon peel
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs sage leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
Small piece of cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon
90g butter
800g pumpkin or butternut squash flesh, peeled, deseeded and chopped into rough dice about the size of a conker
1ltr vegetable stock, either homemade or made with vegetable stock powder
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the croutons:

200g stale bread, approximately 4 thick slices
1 & 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted and roughly chopped
2 sprigs of sage, leaves removed and chopped
Salt and pepper

20 minutes preparation, 30 minutes cooking time

Start by making the soup

  • Place the olive oil in a large, heavy based pan over a high heat. When the oil is hot add the bacon and stir until it starts to brown and crisp.  Add the onion, turn down the heat and cook until soft and golden brown – this will take about 7-10 minutes.
  • Turn up the heat and add the garlic, lemon peel, bay leaf, sage and cinnamon.  Stir for a minute then throw in the butter.
  • When the butter’s melted, add the pumpkin, stir well then add the stock.
  • Bring to the boil, season and simmer until the pumpkin is soft – this will take about 15 minutes.
  • While the soup is cooking, make the croutons.
  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan) gas 6.
  • Cut the bread into slices no more than a centimeter thick and the size of a playing card.
  • Lightly oil an oven tray big enough to hold the pieces flat.
  • Mix together the rest of the crouton ingredients in a shallow dish and dip each piece into the mixture making sure each side gets well coated.
  • Place the bread on the tray, drizzle over any remaining coating mixture and bake in the oven until golden and crisp – about 5 minutes.
  • When the pumpkin is soft, use a potato masher to turn some into a rough puree. Alternatively, lift out the lemon zest and bay leaf, and blend with a stick blender or liquidize completely.
  • To serve, place one crouton in the bottom of each soup bowl and ladle in the soup. Float the other crouton on top.