Pumpkin is one of those vegetables that really vary. Some are more flavourful while others are watery in texture and watered down in taste. My mom has luck securing superior pumpkin, “real pumpkin”, at Carribean grocery stores and actually tells me with a mixture of pride and relief when she’s scored “Jamaican pumpkin”. I would have titled this recipe “Jamaican Pumpkin Soup” but Steph, my best friend whose recipe this is, usually uses kabocha squash which is often easier to source.
Butternut squash and sweet potatoes round out the flavour of Steph’s version. Fresh thyme and scotch bonnet peppers are what make this soup distinct from other squash soups. Scotch bonnets are often mislabeled in the store for their close cousins, habenaros. I find scotch bonnets impart better flavour, even used whole in this soup, but use habaneros if they are easier to come by. I have and the result is still great.
Whichever you end up using, respect the power of these chilies. Use caution when handling them and when stirring the soup once one has been added. You want to use a fresh, firm pepper and stir carefully so that it doesn’t burst–they are too hot to be added to the soup cut or if any part of the skin is pierced. I mistakenly used a frozen scotch bonnet in this soup once and the pepper disintegrated into it which, for some, might render the soup inedible. I chose to suffer through the heat because I have a dangerous, painful love of chilies, but you probably might not want to let this happen to your soup. Now, if you, like Steph and I, would enjoy this soup extra spicy, you can dunk a fresh, raw, cut scotch bonnet into the soup when you’re eating it (seen in the first picture of this post). If you’ve never done this before, start slowly. This is a heat that creeps!
The only laborious part of this endeavor is the peeling of the kabocha, since the skin is very tough. You could chip away at it as I’ve done in the past, but it’s tedious and can be dangerous to try to cut away the thick, hard skin. Instead, par-cook the kabocha squash in simmering water for 3-5 minutes and carefully remove it (it’s awkward and you do not want it slipping back into boiling water). Let it cool slightly before handling it and then the peel should be easy to cut away.
But once your ingredients are prepped, the rest is a matter of throwing everything into a pot and letting heat and time work their magic. You can serve this soup over rice if you’d like, but it’s so hearty and satisfying that a big bowl of it makes a meal on its own.
(photographed by james piper)
This story and the recipe that goes with it can be found in “SOUPS”, ISSUE 014 of Le Sauce Magazine! Get it here: http://www.lesauce.com/app