14 January 2014

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup - from the garden!

I was home today taking care of my sick daughter on this cold and snowy Minnesota morning, and wishing I had thought to put the rice cooker on last night to have a nice bowl of congee waiting for her when she awoke.  While she was very happy with the instant miso I put together for her (and doing much better tonight BTW), it did spur me to pull out the crockpot and some recipe notes I had buried under other story ideas on my desk...

This summer our family expanded our backyard garden plot and grew a pair of pumpkin bushes, ending up with seven very nice pie-pumpkins (as opposed to jack-o-lantern pumpkins, whose flesh is not so good for cooking). (In fact, there were three other pumpkins we grew that weren't ripe enough when frost came that did get turned into jack-o-lanterns!)
Fate of the three that didn't ripen in time
Fire Dragon Pumpkin!

With far more pumpkin available than we could turn into baked goods in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving, we pureed most of the harvest, bagged it into quart-size Ziplocs, and froze it for future use.  Today, I decided, would be the future.

The recipes I had taken notes from were Thai squash-based soups, but I thought they would work just as well with fresh pumpkin. So here's what I made:

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup
Ingredients:

* Pureed flesh from a 2-3 pound pumpkin -- you do not want the canned pumpkin that has already been spiced & sweetened for use in baking; it needs to be as fresh as you can get (or frozen in my case). Squash will work fine too - I have seen frozen Butternut cubes at the grocery store, for instance, that you could puree in a blender.
* One small yellow onion, chopped
* Two medium carrots, julienned
* 2 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2-1/2 cups chicken stock
* 2 small cans coconut milk (they're about 165 mL per can; the larger-size can may be too much for this recipe) - your local Asian supermarket will definitely have this in stock
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce - again, see your Asian grocer
* 1 tablespoon ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* Pinch of nutmeg

Preparation:

* In a slow-cooker or stock pot, start the pumpkin going with the chicken stock, olive oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce.
* Saute the garlic and onions, then add to the pumpkin-and-liquid mixture.
* Let this combination simmer until the pumpkin has thoroughly dissolved into the stock.
* Add the carrots, plus the dry spices, and finally the coconut milk.

The pumpkin is still a bit frozen here - took about 30 minutes to dissolve into the chicken stock
After adding the coconut milk, the texture changes from watery to creamy, and the color from yellowish to a nutty golden brown
In my slow-cooker, I switched the knob to medium heat and let it be happy and bubbly for a good two hours; there was no scalding in my ceramic pot. In a metal pot, you'll want to watch for burning.  As the ingredients are already cooked, all the soup needs to be is hot.

When serving, you could add toppings to taste like:
* Cilantro
* Thai basil
* Green onion
* Peanuts or cashews
* Toasted coconut
* Lime juice
* Sriracha sauce

Here, I added cilantro, cashews, and a few leaves of basil:
Creamy, warm,  and not spicy at all. More filling than you would think at first look!
This soup pairs well with grilled meat and steamed rice, and would actually be nice for breakfast alongside a toasted bagel, now that I think about it!

My daughter has recovered, and I have cleared a couple pieces of paper off my desk!  Happy Asian Eating!