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Ask almost any Australian what is the most popular soup in their homeland & chances are they’ll tell you it’s pumpkin soup. Like it or love it, it’s certainly an Aussie icon. It’s evolved over the years as food trends changed. In its simplest form it’s onion – sweated in some oil or butter, pumpkin, stock or water, perhaps a touch of ground cumin or ginger, all blissfully simmered, whizzed-up until silky smooth, then topped with an obligatory dollop of sour cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love it this way but I decided to tart it up a bit.
The sweetness of pumpkin lends itself so beautifully to the flavours of South East Asia. Here are a couple of old pics of the same variety of pumpkin I used for this recipe. The calabaza pumpkin is grown in the Caribbean & it’s the closest thing I’ve found to the pumpkins from back home – ‘Queensland blue’ & ‘jap’. Here in Florida calabaza pumpkin is readily available in the grocery stores & markets but feel free to substitute butternut squash (butternut pumpkin as it’s referred to ‘back home’) if you’re unable to find it.
When I buy pumpkin for the sole purpose of making a soup, I cut it, scoop the seeds out, cut the beautiful orange flesh into chunks, pop it into a re-sealable bag & freeze it (it’ll keep for 3 months in the freezer, any longer & freezer burn takes over). When the time comes to make the soup there’s very little effort required because the pumpkin is already prepped. You don’t have to let the frozen chunks thaw – simply toss them into the soup straight from the freezer. One of these whole pumpkins weighs about nine pounds – enough for two batches of this soup. Or, freeze half of it & roast the other half.
To get the soup silky smooth, I used a hand blender. I find a regular kitchen counter blender or a food processor just don’t get the job done right. I have a Kitchen Aid hand blender & it works perfectly for getting soups, sauce, smoothies & such incredibly smooth. That’s important with this soup, it’s meant to be really creamy & velvety on your tongue. While I think of it, the soup also freezes brilliantly. I portion it into containers that stack on top of each other in the freezer. That way you have it on hand for nights when you don’t feel like cooking (like during the holiday season). Or take it to work for a healthy, satisfying & slightly exotic lunch.
I’m not a big fan of fussy soup garnishes, so a mere drizzle of coconut milk at the end is really all it needs. Nothing complicated. It doesn’t need to be, this soup might look unassuming but it’s a powerhouse of wonderful, hedonistic flavours & aromas that needs little more than to just enjoy it. And to me, that’s perfection enough.
- 1 tablespoon sunflower (peaut or veg) oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 largeish onion)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled & coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons peeled & coarsely chopped ginger
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 3 1/2 lbs (1.5kg) chopped peeled & seeded pumpkin (or butternut squash)
- 2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
- 14 oz (398ml) can coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons grated palm sugar or brown sugar
- 2 lemongrass stalks, white & tender green part only
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- pinch salt & freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic & ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until onion is softened.
- Add curry paste & cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add pumpkin, stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, lemongrass & lime leaves; stir to combine. Cover & bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered (you don’t want the soup to boil over) about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until pumpkin is very soft.
- Remove pot from the heat & remove the lemongrass & lime leaves. Using a hand blender (or an upright blender) blend soup until it’s very smooth.
- Season to taste with salt & pepper. Stir in lime juice. Makes about 9 cups.