Halloween Antidote: Curried Pumpkin Soup

I serve this warming soup every year at Halloween in the hope that it will – at least to some extent – act as an antidote to all the sugar my children drag into the house.

All varieties of winter squash – Hokkaido, butternut, acorn, turban or kabocha – are an excellent source of antioxidant carotenes that protect our cells from damage and can thus prevent cancerous changes.

And we’re not just talking about the better-known beta- and alpha-carotenes, but also three other health-supportive carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin (very important for eye health) and beta-cryptoxanthin (which may offer protection against lung cancer (1) ).

Although there are no human studies yet, winter squash is also thought to have various anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects as shown in laboratory studies of cancer cell lines and animals (2).

Meanwhile, turmeric, curry powder and ginger are not only tasty and warming, they also have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  Apples contain pectin, flavonoids and polyphenols and are thought to protect against cancers of the lung, colon, breast and liver.

Lastly, pumpkin seeds contain immune-boosting zinc and their oil is thought to promote prostate health. They are also a good source of various forms of vitamin E: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol. These last two – whose bio-availability is thought to be greater than some of the other vitamin-E forms – have only recently been discovered in pumpkin seeds. (These toasted seeds below make a delicious snack and a healthy alternative to potato chips.)

A note of caution from the researchers at World’s Healthiest Foods: “Winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. PAHs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. … For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to contain undesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs.”

And now, without further ado, here’s the recipe. To balance the squash’s and apples’ natural sweetness, add a few drops of chili sauce if you like. Chop squash and apples into fairly small pieces; this way they will cook faster and retain maximum vitamin content. This dish is gluten-free, dairy-free and veg(etari)an. And here is a video of me preparing this soup: http://www.youtube.com/user/connermid?feature=mhee#p/u/0/84OP-3TgmqY.


Curried Pumpkin & Apple Soup with Tamari-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Cashew Cream (Recipe from Zest for Life: The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet)  Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive or coconut oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1½ lb/750g organic Hokkaido (unpeeled) or Butternut squash (peeled), cubed

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1½ pints/750ml vegetable stock

11oz/300g apples, cored and cubed

scant 1 cup/200ml coconut milk

squeeze of lemon juice

chives for garnish

salt & freshly ground black pepper

Tamari-toasted pumpkin seeds

4 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

1 tsp tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)

Cashew Cream

1/3 cup raw cashew nuts (unsalted, untoasted), if possible soaked for a few hours or overnight; drain and rinse before suing in a sieve or colander

1/3 cup fresh, filtered water

pinch of salt

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add onion and cook at medium temperature until soft. Add grated ginger and cook another 2 minutes.

Add squash, curry powder and turmeric and cook with the onion, stirring constantly, for another 1-2 minutes, then pour in stock. Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.  

Add apples, cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until squash and apples are soft.

While the soup is cooking, toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet, stirring with a wooden spoon until they start to expand and crackle (3-4 minutes). Add tamari; there will be much hissing and steam but keep stirring and soon the pan will be dry and the seeds coated with a salty crust. Tip onto a plate to cool.

To make cashew cream, tip cashew nuts, water and salt into a small blender and blend for 2-3 minutes until completely smooth. Dilute to desired thickness (it should be like pouring cream).

When squash and apples are soft, transfer to blender and puree to a fine consistency. When fully blended, pour into a clean pot. Add coconut milk, reheat gently and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Remove from heat and cover.

Ladle soup into bowls and dress each portion with a teaspoon of Cashew cream. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and chives for garnish.


(1)    Lian, Fuzhi; Hu, Kang-Quan; Russell, Robert M.; Wang, Xiang-Dong (2006). “β-Cryptoxanthin suppresses the growth of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells and non-small-cell lung cancer cells and up-regulates retinoic acid receptor b expression”. International Journal of Cancer 119 (9): 2084–2089.

(2)    Jayaprakasam B, Seeram NP and Nair MG. Anticancer and antiinflammatory activities of cucurbitacins from Cucurbita andreana. Cancer Lett. 2003 Jan 10;189(1):11-16. 2003.

(3)    Xie J, Que W, Liu H, Liu M, Yang A, Chen M. Anti-proliferative effects of cucurmosin on human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Mol Med Report. 2012 Jan;5(1):196-201.