Recipe: Roasted Red Kuri Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

Earlier today I mentioned my favorite pumpkin: the creamy, chestnut-sweet Red Kuri squash. And now here is one of my favorite ways to use it: a velvety pumpkin soup with a slow, mild backdrop of curried spice, and the richness of coconut milk. Just a hint of lime and a topping of frizzled shallots and toasted coconut round this out — this is a soup that will satisfy completely.
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I frequently notice comments from people on vegetable and squash soups saying it seemed like they need "a little something more." I think that squash soups are frequently undersalted, and they also need a bit of roasting or something else dark to bring out their sweetness.

Here I roast the squash until it gets toasty, then scrape all that sweet mellow flesh into a big pot along with shallots, spices, and garlic, and cook it a little more. A short simmer with broth also helps to concentrate the flavor, and a night in the fridge will also only do good things for this soup.

The lime and the tomato paste also brighten things up and bring the soup together. If you're craving a good pumpkin soup with warmth and a bit of spice, as I was, give this one a try.

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Roasted Red Kuri Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

serves 6 as a main course

4 to 4 1/2 pounds red Kuri squash * (See Note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
4 cloves garlic
4 small shallots
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, from a 3-inch long piece
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 dried red chili, about 2 inches long
One 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons

For topping:
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 400°F. Use a heavy, sharp knife or cleaver to cut the squash into quarters. Place these quarters in a roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. (Alternate method: Place each squash directly in the oven, whole. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft enough to cut in half with little effort. Cut in quarters, place in a baking dish, and roast for 40 more minutes or until the skin can be easily peeled away from the flesh.)

Put the squash aside for 15 minutes or until it is cool enough to be easily handled. When cool, peel the skin away from the squash flesh. You should have about 3 packed cups of roasted squash.

In a 4-quart or larger pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil or butter over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, shallots, and ginger, and fry in the oil for about a minute. Add the tomato paste and fry for another minute. Turn the heat down and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the shallots are beginning to really soften. Add the curry powder and crumble in the red chili. Fry for another minute, then add the squash. Turn the heat back up to medium and fry the squash with the aromatics for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to a light simmer. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree the soup with a hand blender, or pour the soup in batches into a blender and carefully puree it there, holding the top down with a towel. Add the salt in 1/2-teaspoon increments, tasting as you go, and stir in the juice of the lime. Serve immediately, with the garnishes.

For the toppings:
Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the coconut. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the coconut is lightly toasted and brown. Immediately pour the coconut out onto a plate.

Wipe the skillet out and return to medium heat. Add the oil. When the oil is quite hot, add the thinly sliced shallots. Fry in the oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until their edges just begin to turn brown. Turn off the heat and immediately lift the shallots out of the oil with a slotted spoon. Put on a plate to cool.

Both the coconut and fried shallots can be kept for up to a few days in an airtight sealed container.

* Note: You can also substitute butternut squash, pie pumpkin or another sweet, dense, yellow or orange-fleshed winter squash for the Red Kuri.

Related: Seasonal Recipe: Pumpkin Soup with Bacon

(Images: Faith Durand)

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