Spice up a cold autumn night with this quick and easy soup from central London's conference and events venue, Congress Centre.
1 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Approx 800g chopped pumpkin flesh, plus the seeds
100g split red lentils
½ small pack thyme leaves picked, plus extra to serve
1l hot vegetable stock
Pinch of salt and sugar
50g crème fraiche or yoghurt, plus extra to serve
Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the onions until softened and starting to turn golden. Stir in the garlic, pumpkin flesh, lentils and thyme, then pour in the hot stock. Season, cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, wash the pumpkin seeds. Remove any flesh still clinging to them, then dry them with kitchen paper. Heat the 1 tsp oil in a non-stick pan and fry the seeds until they start to jump and pop. Stir frequently, but cover the pan in between to keep them in it. When the seeds look nutty and toasted, add a sprinkling of salt and a pinch of sugar, and stir well.
Whizz the cooked pumpkin mixture with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add the crème fraiche and whizz again. Taste for seasoning.
Serve with a spoonful of crème fraiche, a few thyme leaves and the toasted seeds scattered on top.