Belinda Jeffery

Smoky Pumpkin, Kidney Bean And Kale (Or Spinach) Soup

This lovely soup is a staple for me as the weather slowly turns to autumn. I’ve become hopelessly addicted to it as it’s wonderfully flavourful and surprisingly quick to make (which is right up my alley for despite what I do, I have to confess that at times I struggle to think of what we’ll have for dinner!) The bacon (or ham) bones impart a subtle smokiness to the flavour, and because there are no dairy products in it, it has a lovely lightness with none of the cloying quality that some pumpkin and bacon soups can have.

This quantity makes enough for four, however if I have a bit more time I usually double the recipe and freeze half for down the track.

  • Serves 4.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small red chillies, finely chopped
  • 400g bacon bones (or 1 ham hock – ask your butcher to saw it into 2 or 3 pieces)
  • Approximately *1.6 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1400ml cool water
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
  • Approximately 150g cavolo nero (Italian black kale), well washed, stalks removed, and roughly
  • chopped (or use the same quantity of baby spinach leaves)
  • 400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • (* You’re after 1 – 1.2 kg of pumpkin once it’s peeled and chopped)

Warm the oil in a large saucepan over low-ish heat. Scrape in the onion, garlic and chilli and cook them, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until they become translucent-looking and tender. Tumble in the bacon (or ham) bones, pumpkin and bay leaf, then pour in the water, adding a little more if the pumpkin isn’t quite covered; finally, sprinkle in the salt. Bring the soup to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer it, with the lid slightly ajar, for 50-60 minutes.

After this time, remove the pan from the heat, and fish out and discard the bacon (or ham) bones and bay leaf. (It’s a good idea to double-check that all the bones are out, once or twice I’ve found that tiny bones have sheared off the larger ones and dropped into the bottom of the pan which caused my blender to go ballistic when it tangled with them!).

Puree the soup in the pan with a stick blender until it’s smooth (or do it in batches in a regular blender) then return the pan to gentle heat so the soup barely bubbles. Add the cavolo nero, pushing it under the surface of the soup, and cook it with the lid partly on for about 20 minutes or until it’s tender. Add most of the kidney beans after 10 minutes so that they warm through. (If you’re using spinach, it won’t take nearly as long to cook, 4 or 5 minutes should do it, and you can add the kidney beans at the same time.)

Taste the soup, and add more salt if necessary. If it seems a bit too thick, splash in a little boiling water to thin it down. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and finish off with a sprinkling of the reserved kidney beans and freshly ground black pepper.


Cavalo nero (Tuscan black kale)

Cavolo nero (or Tuscan black kale) is one of my all-time favourite greens. It has rather wonderful, plume-like, crinkly grey/green leaves and a deep, rich mineral flavour. Just be mindful that it’s very coarsely textured and needs quite a bit of cooking to soften and tenderise the leaves.