I often say that I find things on this blog, which may seem peculiar. Or perhaps you have come to believe that I tend to lose many items. This is not always the case. I like to think of these events as discoveries, much like a squirrel who stores for winter, and then is delighted to be reunited with the food in spring. Just as I was lamenting the passing of squash season last week, and not being able to cook more soups and desserts this winter, I found two small butternut squash gems in my storage closet, along with a kabocha squash (or Japanese pumpkin).Â Interestingly, the kabocha squash was introduced in Japan in the 1540’s by way of Portuguese sailors, who had originally found it in Cambodia (hence the Portuguese name of the squash being Cambodia abobora), and this squash has been favored since then by the Japanese for its sweet texture.
I decided to prepare it in the most traditional way I could think of, in a coconut soup with curry powder and other spices. Bright and yellow, like the weather we have been having, this soup can be served warm or chilled, and accompanies not just rice, but meat (lamb!) as well. I finished the soup off with some ground pink peppercorns, which have a heat that most closely reminds me of chilies rather than black pepper. These berries are actually not related to peppercorns, and although the taste is initially peppery, the flavor that follows is sweet. Since pink peppercorns are very soft, they can be easily smashed with the back of a spoon or knife, or in a mortar and pestle. There is no need to grind them very finely, as the taste is not too spicy, and lends itself beautifully for a delicate balance with the other flavors of this soup.
Butternut & Kabocha Squash Coconut Soup with Curry Powder
Ingredients (for four small or two very large servings):
~3 lbs. of squash (butternut or kabocha, or a combination of whatever you have around – acorn and pie pumpkin could work as well)
2-3 tbs. coconut oil
2 tbs. butter, sliced or diced
brown sugar (I used about three tablespoons)
pinch of salt (less than 1 tsp.)
1 can coconut cream (you can find it at Trader Joe’s, thicker than coconut milk), 2 tbs. reserved
1/4-1 cup of water, or coconut milk
1 teaspoon curry powder (my mix has coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg, ginger, fennel, cinnamon, black and white pepper, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cloves, and cayenne pepper, mace, bay leaf)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated turmeric (1/4 tsp. if using dried)
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
1 tsp. pink peppercorns, freshly ground (optional)
cilantro (for garnish, optional)
1) Preheat oven at 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the squash if dirty, then cut into halves or portions that are of similar size. Season each half with the coconut oil so that the entire inside (you can cook with the seeds, or remove the seeds) is covered. combine salt and brown sugar, and sprinkle on each squash. Add the diced butter around the edges, and put on the baking sheet. It will depend on the variety you use, but the squash should be done in about 45-60 minutes (the best test is to see if it easily gives way when poked with a toothpick/knife/fork). Take it out, and let it slightly cool.
2) Once the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the seeds (if you left them in), and peel squash away from the skin. I find the best way to do this is by using a grapefruit spoon around the stubborn/awkward edges. Discard the skin, but if you like the seeds, keep them. You can eat them, or roast them a little longer, and season them with allspice and salt for a delicious snack.
3) At this point, you can either smash the squash with a potato masher (thick consistency) or add it in a blender (I opted for the latter). Add the coconut cream, water/broth/milk, and blend. If the consistency is too thin or thick, adjust, and incorporate the curry powder, garam masala, and turmeric. Note: If your curry and garam masala powders are old, you can increase the amount you add slightly (no more than 1/2 tsp. of both). If you are blending the soup, it will become very aerated (and will solidify when placed in the fridge).
4) Squeeze some lime or lemon juice, and garnish with some freshly ground pink peppercorns or cilantro, and the remaining coconut cream. Serve hot with meats, enjoy chilled on a hot day with a light salad and some bread for dipping. Delicious any way you have it.