Are you fed up with pumpkins yet? Huge orange monsters, piled high, threatening to roll from their confines and squash small children, spooky pumpkin faces on Halloween bunting, even small ceramic candleholders – it's hard to avoid pumpkins this season.
But it wasn't always so. My countryside childhood involved carving faces into turnips rather than pumpkins. When we ran out of turnips, we raided the potato stash (ever seen a red skinned Rooster grinning back at you?) to demonstrate our carving prowess. For us, Halloween was a time to hunker down at home, building our own bonfire in the wood for that night's feast of burnt sausages and ember baked potatoes (always eaten slightly raw), the path illuminated by lumpy potato and turnip lanterns.
I encountered my first real pumpkin after moving to Dublin when my housemate hauled a Cindarella-style one home to our Rathmines flat and turned it into a sinister smiling jack o'lantern for display on the window sill. After years of digging at the tough insides of turnips, I was amazed at how easy it was to hollow out a pumpkin; take off the top, haul the seeds out with a spoon, cut a face with a sharp knife and even the least skilled of us have something worth displaying.
But, if you're truly sick of the sight of those darned pumpkins, take your revenge by transforming them into – no, not Cinderella's carridge – a seasonally appropriate smoky pumpkin and sweet potato soup. Just the thing for sipping bonfire-side.
Smoky pumpkin and sweet potato soup
You can use either pumpkin – the ones marked edible – or a butternut squash for this gorgeously autunmal soup. Smoked paprika adds an intriguing dimension to the sweetness of the vegetables.
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
750g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
3-4 springs of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
Toppings: natural yoghurt, toasted pumpkin seeds
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, a generous sprinkle of salt and cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the smoked paprika, chopped pumpkin and sweet potato to the saucepan and stir together, over the heat, for a minute until you can smell the paprika warming up.
Pour in the stock, add the thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Purée with a hand-held blender or use a potato masher for a more textured soup. Taste and season well.
Serve topped with dollops of natural yoghurt, crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds and stacks of well-buttered toast.
Caroline Hennessy is an award winning food blogger. Visit her website here