Saturday, November 11, 2006

Curried pumpkin soup / how to break down a pumpkin

The pumpkin that we never got around to carving on Halloween needed to be dealt with. I originally wanted to break it down into chunks, but that wasn't going to work - the skin was impossible to peel and the shell was too hard to cut it into wedges and "peel" with a knife. I managed to crack it in half and scoop out the seeds,* then put both halves on a cookie sheet in a 450°F oven for about an hour (it was a big pumpkin). Once the flesh was fork tender, I took it out and let it cool.

* I set the seeds aside to dry, coated them in kosher salt, and then toasted them in the warm oven after the pumpkin itself was done baking. They make a great little snack... if you're feeling adventurous, try adding some other spices to the mix - paprika, curry powder, cayenne pepper or even just a little black pepper would be tasty.

When I went to go break it down, I discovered that it was pretty stringy - not surprising since it was so big. So I broke out the trusty food processor (you could use a blender to do this) and processed it in three or four batches. I ended up with a smooth, if watery, pureƩ, similar to what you would get out of a can.

So, what does one do with eight cups of pumpkin puree? Make a soup, of course. Pumpkin curries are one of my favorite Thai dishes, and I keep stumbling across really delicous-sounding recipes for pumpkin with curry (or curry-like flavors), so I decided to make an attempt at my own combination. I am happy to say that it came out really well. The pumpkin is pretty mild, but I think the flavor comes through the coconut milk and curry. The lime and cilantro add depth, but they aren't 100% essential.

This made a pretty big recipe (6-8 servings); you can certainly cut it in half.

Curried pumpkin soup
1/4 c. olive oil
2 onions, diced fine
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. curry paste
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 tsp. powdered)
2 c. (16 oz) vegetable broth
5 cups pumpkin puree (equivalent to about 2 x 15.5 oz cans)
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 x 13.5 oz can coconut milk (optionally - set aside 1 Tbsp or so to drizzle on top of each bowl)
(optional) lime juice, cilantro

In a dutch oven or similarly large pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and salt and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes (since there are so many of them). Add the curry paste and fresh ginger and stir well. Cook another 2 minutes, just to get the flavors all out of the curry paste. Add the vegetable broth, pumpkin puree, brown sugar and coconut milk and stir well. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes.

If you want a super smooth texture, run the soup through your food processor or blender 1-2 c. at a time (just don't fill your blender more than halfway full, or you may end up cleaning the soup off your ceiling). I decided that the texture of the onion pieces wouldn't bug me enough to justify breaking out the blender again, so I skipped this step.

Just prior to serving, squeeze the juice of 1/4 lime over each bowl; top with 1-2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro.
As for the rest of the pumpkin, it will probably get made into this Pumpkin Pecan Coffee Cake from Once Upon a Feast for breakfast tomorrow. :)

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