Individual servings of soup in whole, small pumpkins have a high ratio of impressiveness-to-ease. Look for single-serving-sized pumpkins or squash, then let your imagination guide you in creating the shell’s contents. A base of sautéed onions, shallots, leeks and/or garlic will complement a wide variety of soup combinations. If using dense vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots, precook them by boiling, steaming or sautéing until barely tender.
For soup in a pumpkin, aim for roughly equal parts liquid (such as stock, milk, cheese or béchamel sauce) to solids (such as vegetables or bread). Grabben Gullen Pie, a favorite recipe of English settlers, was made by scooping out a pumpkin and filling it with opossum meat, then baking it whole in hot coals. Here are some other (perhaps more palatable) combinations to try:
• Mushroom stock with sliced mushrooms, minced sage and fontina cheese
• Vegetable stock with goat cheese, cashews, lemon and thyme
• Chicken stock with peeled, roasted chestnuts and cubed potatoes
• Beef stock with rosemary, onions, Gruyère cheese, a splash of red wine and chunks of crusty bread
• Béchamel sauce with carrots, celery, bulb fennel, parsley and a splash of dry white wine
Prepare the soup as you desire. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a top out of each pumpkin, slicing at an angle so that the top can be replaced. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Season the interior flesh with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkins in a pan with about a quarter-inch of water.
Fill each pumpkin with your soup, poured to within a half-inch of the top. Replace the tops. Tightly wrap the top of the pan with foil to trap steam. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The pumpkins will not be fully cooked, but their flavor and aroma will have permeated the soup.