Here’s a great winter soup, enriched with cream to make it really comforting. If you want it lighter, simply omit the cream – it will still taste good. I have tried making this with the different varieties of pumpkin that we grow at Great Dixter, and I have come to realise that each has its own distinct qualities. My favourite is ‘Jarrahdale’, which has thick and somewhat dry flesh, but the ‘Sugar Pie’ cultivar is good too. Generally, pumpkins that are grown hard – that is, without too much water – will cook better, as well as storing for longer. You can also use other spices, such as chilli flakes, cumin, curry powder or grated fresh ginger. Just remember to add them at the beginning when you are cooking the onion and garlic to bring out the flavour.

The vegetable stock can be prepared in advance and frozen for later use. The stock can be frozen for up to three months and it is such a useful thing to have in the freezer, especially in the winter, which does seem to be soup-eating season. This recipe will make around 2.5 litres and is cooked quickly to preserve the fresh flavour of the ingredients, so you can add greens or strong-flavoured vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and turnip to give it more flavour. You can replace the vegetable stock with a chicken stock for a richer flavour.


For the stock

  • 4 Celery stalks including leaves, roughly chopped
  • A handful of dried mushrooms
  • 2 large cloves of garlic unpeeled, smashed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 small onion cut into quarters
  • 1tbsp Peppercorns
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 or 2 sprigs Fresh thyme or a large pinch of dried thym

For the soup

  • 1tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • ¼tsp Paprika
  • 2tsp Ground coriander
  • 2 Potatoes (about 300g in total), peeled and chopped
  • 1kg (peeled and seeded weight) Pumpkin (or butternut squash) chopped
  • 1l Vegetable or chicken stock
  • Double cream



  • STEP 1

    Put all the vegetables and seasonings into a large pan and add 2.75 litres water – this is to allow for some of the liquid to evaporate during cooking.

  • STEP 2

    Place over medium-high heat with the lid on loosely so that it comes to a boil more quickly. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat, take off the lid and simmer for 15–20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids, then use as required.


  • STEP 1

    Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, then the paprika and coriander. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.

  • STEP 2

    Add the potatoes and pumpkin. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes start to brown.

  • STEP 3

    Pour in the stock, cover the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10–12 minutes until the potatoes and pumpkin are tender. Let cool slightly before pouring into a blender and blending in batches until smooth.

  • STEP 4

    Return the soup to the pan over low heat and stir in the cream (if using). Heat through for 1 minute, then season to taste with pepper.

This recipe is taken from The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes from an English Garden by Aaron Bertelsen (Phaidon, 2017).


Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.