Life’s a Feast: Butternut soup with harissa and crispy mint


Harissa is a hot, aromatic paste made from chilli and a variety of spices. It is widely used as a condiment in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. Whether it be in soups or stews, or in couscous or their bread dips, a little of this pungent goodness goes a long way. I prefer to use butternut as opposed to pumpkin for the soup base, as I find it creates a far more silky soup. Be sure to place the crispy mint and pumpkin seeds on top and you can dress this simple soup up to dinner party standard. Enjoy! 



1kg butternut, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, diced
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
2 tablespoons harissa paste (recipe below)
1 litre vege or chicken stock
100ml creme fraiche
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly roasted
2-3 tablespoons mint, sliced
Olive oil
Vege oil

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red chillis
2 teaspoons cumin ground (toast and grind your own seeds if have time)
2 teaspoons coriander ground (toast and grind your own seeds if have time)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon salt


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Place the cubed pumpkin onto a roasting dish lined with baking paper, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle cumin and coriander over the pumpkin and put in oven for between 50 mins and one hour.

2. Meanwhile, blend all the harissa ingredients and set aside.

3. Heat a large pot to a medium-high heat. Cook the onions for 3-4 mins until softened. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a further 2 mins ensuring you do not brown. Add harissa paste and combine well and cook for a further couple of minutes.

4. Remove from heat until the butternut is ready. Once the butternut is starting to brown, remove from oven and tip into the pot with the harissa mix. Pour in stock and bring back to the boil and simmer for about 10 mins.

5. Meanwhile heat a couple tablespoons of vege oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds and cook for 1 min, swirling the pan a few times. Add mint and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from heat and set pan aside.

6. Remove soup from the heat and blend with a stick blender until completely smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Next pour in the creme fraiche and bring back to the simmer - and then remove from heat immediately. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

7. Divide evenly among six bowls. Drizzle with more creme fraiche or yoghurt, then sprinkle with the pumpkin seed and mint mix. Serve immediately.