Vietnamese Pumpkin Soup
A Warming Soup for Autumn
It’s that time of year when you can’t move for pumpkins in the shops. Today they were (literally) spilling out onto the floor at my not-so-local but very organic grocers. After admiring them, I bought two of the most expensive ones known to man. Look at these beauties, who could resist?
Squashes such as these contain masses of beta-carotene which, when ingested, is turned by the body into Vitamin A. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant and great for the immune system. Just what is needed at this time of year.
Now, I have no idea which types I purchased, the only squash I can reliably recognise being the ubiquitous butternut and, at Halloween, the pumpkin (aka Baby Bear squash). What I do know is that the greater the diversity in crops grown the better for our ecosystem – which I’m all for – so I was happy to pick two completely different varieties at random. A bit like a lucky dip.
Having purchased the things I was then left wondering what on earth to do with them. I have always found pumpkin soup a little cloying and overly sweet and I wondered about looking for a recipe with spices in it. You know, something warming and suitably autumnal. Mr Google came up with lots of recipes involving boiling the pumpkin up and adding a few spices and maple syrup (WHY?) but none of them appealed.
Then, co-incidentally, I happened to go out with a friend of mine who has recently spent a month travelling in Vietnam (lucky thing; she’s retired, so she can) and she mentioned that they’d had loads of pumpkin soup there and that it was utterly delicious. While I love to eat Asian food, cooking it is well outside my comfort zone – too much overly complicated faffing about with spices for my liking – but I did find a recipe that seemed relatively easy, light on obscure ingredients and so, in my opinion, worth a go. Thanks to Andrea Nguyen at www.vietworldkitchen whose recipe I have adapted.
2 small squashes (smaller ones are better for cooking with, use large pumpkins for carving only!)
1 large onion
800 ml stock of choice (chicken or vegetable)
100 ml coconut milk
6 kaffir lime leaves (if unavailable use lemongrass)
- preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper.
- Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Slice each pumpkin in half again to make quarters and brush with olive oil. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast in the over for 40 minutes or until the flesh is pierced easily with a fork and the edges are beginning to char. Turn after 20 minutes so they are done evenly. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Scoop out cooked flesh into a bowl.
- Heat olive oil, butter and coconut oil over a medium head and cook the onion until translucent and soft. Add the squash, lime leaves and stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the spices.
- Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth and creamy. Add the coconut milk and serve with a wedge of lime.
I won’t lie. The whole pumpkin thing (deseeding, deskinning) was a bit of a faff and the soup is a little sweet for my taste (it is pumpkin after all). But it is really delicate and a huge squeeze of lime changes the character of the soup into something altogether more interesting. “Yeah, I could eat that for lunch,” said the Wannabe teen. “As long as I had enough baguette.” Praise indeed.