West meets East
For many in the west, pumpkins are associated with Halloween and Thanksgiving. They get used for decorations, carved into creative jack-o’-lanterns, or turned into pumpkin pie filling. But a quick survey of eastern cultures reveals a variety of sweet and savoury culinary options. The Udupi cuisine of South India and Sri Lanka has Pumpkin Sambar, spicy pumpkin and lentil stew. A popular Indian dessert is the pumpkin halwa, made with milk, sugar, butter and cardamom, with variations including coconut and almonds.
Repurposing those pumpkins
The inspiration for this pumpkin soup started with me wanting to repurpose a pumpkin that had been used as a Halloween decoration. I know that lots of people just toss out unwanted pumpkins after October 31. But after all, they are perfectly good to eat. While they are somewhat harder to work with than their smaller squash cousins, they are still going to taste roughly the same when cooked.
I based this soup on a North American indigenous style squash soup that normally calls for butternut squash sweetened with a little maple syrup. After an initial taste test, I found that the pumpkin was a little blander than the usual butternut. So, I tried some ginger. Better, but it still needed a spice kick. The Indian spice blend called Garam Masala worked beautifully. Et voila! A pumpkin transformed into a soup that’s a delicious fusion of eastern and western cuisines.
Pumpkin Soup with Ginger & Spice
- 3 lbs pumpkin rind and seeds removed, chopped into cubes
- 1 medium onion yellow or white chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger finely chopped
- 2 cups water
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp garam masala Indian spice blend
- Salt to taste
- Cilantro coriander sprigs and paprika for garnish
- Add all ingredients, except the garnish, to a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is fork-tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool a bit. Use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients until smooth. Alternately, you can add the cooked mixture to a blender in batches, then blend until smooth.
- Return the pureed soup to the stove to heat before serving and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve in soup bowls garnished with cilantro sprigs and a few sprinkles of paprika.