I have tried numerous pumpkin soups in the past. I have had both savory and sweet varieties, but my favorites are soups that incorporate qualities of each. In this soup, I decided to use some savory fall flavors as well as flavors that are traditionally found in pumpkin pies and breads. Sweet potatoes and sage are classic fall flavors and can traditionally be found on every Thanksgiving table. Additionally, thyme lends a flavor that ties back to summer, yet will be around most of the fall. Allspice, a wonderful complement to cinnamon in pie, adds a sweet element to the dish without becoming overpowering.
One of the secrets I use in this soup is an ordinary tea ball. Tea balls are mesh balls used to brew loose tea. Although I usually do not purchase loose tea, I keep a couple of these around for times when I want to flavor something, but remove the flavoring ingredient for aesthetic reasons. In this case, in order to keep the orange color free of specks when the soup is blended, I stuff the thyme, sage, and allspice into a tea ball. If it does not all fit in one, no problem. I just grab a second tea ball and stuff the rest in the second one. Once the soup has simmered, removing the herbs easy, as long as you remember to clip the tea ball to the side of the pan.
For a festive presentation, you can serve this soup in roasted pumpkin bowls. To make them, just cut the top off of a pie pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff (technically, fibrous strands, but stringy stuff sounds better). Once pumpkin is hollowed out, brush the inside with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 350 degree F oven for 35 minutes.
Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup
2 pie pumpkins (about 2 lbs each)
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, torn
4 stems thyme
6 whole allspice berries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice pumpkins in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy stuff and discard (if desired, pumpkin seeds can be saved for eating later). Place pumpkins sliced side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool until able to be handled. Scoop flesh from pumpkins and reserve.
In large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions in oil until tender. Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute more.
Add sweet potatoes and broth, bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place sage, thyme, and allspice in tea ball or wrap in cheesecloth. Add to pot as soon as liquid begins to boil. Cover and boil 15 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.
Remove seasoning packet from soup. Add reserved pumpkin and heat through. Using stick blender, puree soup until smooth (alternatively, transfer soup to blender in batches and puree). Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Just before serving, drizzle each bowl with one tablespoon of cream.