Stop the presses - I have made an edible squash soup. My love of squash soup - and my infuriating inability to make it - have been the bane of my culinary existence for years. A few people have found this completely incredible - it's the easiest thing in the world, scoffed a line cook at my restaurant, questioning how I had tried to make an apple/butternut squash/curry soup. "It's best to start with the basics," this line cook said, "and then work form there. I always try to start with the basics, as I think you should know by now. Of course, they don't read my website, so what would they know. My lack of culinary school attendance makes me an unreliable source in their eyes.
At any rate. This recipe started out when I was going to revisit my squash risotto recipe, in a non-vegan way (if nothing more than to erase that horrid picture, yikes). I had heard of a differed method for risotto-making with squash and have been dying to try it out. And then I got lazy. And pressed for time. I had a wine tasting to attend, I had exercising to do, I had another post to write, and I had to iron an outfit. But, more importantly, I had to feed myself, and I didn't want it to involve a half hour of stirring. Or any chopping, whatsoever. Fortunately, I had at least pre-steamed a kabocha squash (the finest of the squashes, in my humble opinion) and it was in the fridge. I had a stroke of brilliance driving home, and was crossing my fingers that I had just one can of coconut milk in the cupboard...
Yes! I did! And it was even organic, lite coconut milk! Now, I don't typically care for lite coconut milk. Yes, it is considerably lower in fat than its full-fat counterpart, but the flavor is usually weak, thin, and uninspiring. But I think its lightness, for this soup, was perfect.
If you have some pre-cooked, leftover squash in on hand, this soup literally comes together in about 10 minutes or fewer. Even if you don't, you can either steam the squash separately, or cut it into cubes and simmer it in the chicken stock, and then add it, along with the stock, to the coconut milk. I really like kabocha squash here because not only is it delicious, it is not fibrous or stringy the way some other types of squash can be, nor does it become watery, the way acorn can. There's no need to strain it.
Kabocha Soup with Red Curry & Coconut Milk - serves 4
One medium Kabocha (which is about the size of a small pumpkin, or will fit comfortably in both hands when held together like a bowl - maybe 2 pounds?
2 tbsp butter (or good olive oil, this would make a terrific vegan soup)
2 tbsp garlic & ginger puree - this is a shortcut ingredient, which some people might scoff at, but it is perfect for situations just like this - when your first stipulation for cooking is no chopping. You can find this at Indian groceries, and some Asian groceries
1 14 ounce can lite coconut milk
14 ounces chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you'd like to keep things vegetarian)
1/2 tbsp - 1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste, depending on how you like your heat level. I'd start with less, because you can always add more but you can't take away!
1/4 cup brown sugar or, even better, palm sugar if you can find it (again, Asian grocery stores; palm sugar is delicious but can be really hard to find, even with all of our Asian groceries. I have found it at Sunrise Asian Grocery at Henderson & Reed on the Northwest Side) Palm sugar has to be grated but has a delightfully savory flavor
1/2 tsp fish sauce - again, leave this out if you'd like to keep things vegetarian or vegan
Cut the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place it in a steaming basket and steam for about 20-25 minutes, or until very soft. Be sure the water doesn't boil out! Allow to cool until you can handle the squash, and then scoop out the flesh. Mash lightly with a fork and set aside.
Have the coconut milk can open and nearby.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium/medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic/ginger puree and cook for a few minutes, just until the butter begins to brown very slightly - be careful, because this can lead to burning very quickly. Everything should smell sweet and nutty. As soon as this happens, add the coconut milk. Fill the empty coconut milk can with chicken stock, and add that to the pot. Add the curry paste, the brown sugar, the fish sauce, and a nice big pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and allow to reduce slightly, maybe 5 minutes or so, then add the squash. Turn the heat off and puree the soup with a stick blender. Taste and adjust seasonings. If desired, you can garnish the soup with a little bit of coconut creme, which is a different product from coconut milk, and is very sweet - it makes a nice foil for the spiciness of the soup. but is also available in Asian grocery stores (look for a store with a Thai section)