Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

I have some pumpkins and even more butternut squash taking a siesta in the root cellar at my parents' home up the street. They're calling to me today. They store whole for quite some time, but c'mon, I should be using them up more. So here's a recipe for the squash. You can substitute boxes of frozen squash puree, or any cooked winter squash or canned pumpkin puree you like. Spice it up with curry paste or curry powder if you dare.. but it's a nice subtle pumpkin coconut soup for those days when you aren't quite up to extra spice. I like to serve it with marinated venison or chicken grilled on a skewer, then served with tortillas. Hold a warm flour tortilla, and then place the skewered meat on your tortilla, and use the tortilla to hold the meat as you remove the skewer for serving. I'm hungry... so on to the recipe.

Keng Bouad Mak Fak Kham
Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup

6 to 8 medium shallots unpeeled, roasted until soft
*or see substitution below
3.5 to 4 cups of pumpkin or butternut squash, cooked
*This is about a 4 pound pumpkin or squash, if you have whole ones in your root cellar
For many people, these may also be frozen squash, or cans of pumpkin puree
1 can 13.5 or 14 oz. coconut milk (check the Asian food section in your market)
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup fish sauce (Asian)
Generous grindings of black pepper
1/3 cup minced scallions
Pumpkin seeds, if you have them.

Place coconut milk and chicken stock in a soup pot and then add pumpkin or squash puree, stirring to combine. Add roasted shallots or garlic, or the dried toasted onion option. Heat to a boil, stirring regularly. Add the fish sauce, turn down and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. At this point I usually use my stick blender and blend the soup smooth. It eliminates any stringy bits from our home grown squash or pumpkins. Store bought sieved purees may eliminate the need for this step. Taste for salt, but usually we don't need any extra beyond that provided by the fish sauce.
You can serve this really beautifully in a baked pumpkin shell, but in the winter there usually aren't any available. Serve in individual bowls or a soup tureen with each serving topped with toasted pumpkin seeds or minced scallions.

Another version of this adds some curry paste or powder for some spice. That's a good idea if you have colds or flu in the family. Either way, it's a good way to get extra vitamins in the family during cold and flu season.

*roasted shallots or garlic: place 6-8 whole shallots or 2 cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with 1/4 tsp. oil, wrap well, roast until tender and the skin has darkened. Another option is to dry roast the whole cloves in a frying pan until the skin has darkened, but the inside is sweet and tender. You can also take 1 tablespoon of dehyrated onions and toss in a hot skillet and keep stirring and tossing around until dark tan, and then add to the soup.

A vegetarian version could include tiny cubes of tofu floating in the pumpkin soup, and use only vegetable broth, and substitute tamari sauce for the fish sauce. Either way, it's gluten free and nondairy.

Happy Winter -- It's been a mild one so far!