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Eric Akis: Curry and apples add seasonal zing to squash soup

Kabocha squash and apples are blended into this soup, flavoured with curry spice.
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Kabocha squash and apples are blended into this curry powder-spiced soup. ERIC AKIS

You know autumn is just around the corner when you start seeing locally grown hard-shell (winter) squashes for sale at farm markets, as I did recently. Some of the varieties available included acorn, spaghetti, butternut and kabocha, the latter of which I purchased.

Kabocha, pronounced ka-BOH-cha, squash is a popular variety in Asian countries, such as Thailand, Korea and Japan. It’s also sometimes called Japanese pumpkin. In more recent years it has also become a trendy ingredient to use in North America and other parts of the world. And in all those locations it’s sweet, rich flavour, dense, almost sweet-potato-like, velvety-when-cooked texture, and good nutrition explains is why that is so.

Kabocha squash is low in calories, less than 40 per 100 grams, and contains vitamins C and A, B vitamins, fibre, iron and other good things.

In Asian countries you’ll see the squash used in dishes both savoury and sweet, such as curries, tempura, hot pot and porridge. The texture of the squash makes it open to a wide range of preparations, which also include roasting, steaming, cooking and mashing, and blending into soups, which I did.

To make it, in a pot, I sautéed sliced onions until tender and then stirred in cubed, peeled kabocha squash, chopped garlic and ginger, and some curry powder. Stock, coconut milk and cubed apple, a fruit that works well with squash, were then added, the soup was simmered until the squash was very tender, and then it was pureed until silky smooth.

It’s a soup with a world of flavour that you could serve for lunch or dinner with wedges of naan or pita bread, for dunking into it. The recipe makes about seven cups of soup. Once cooled, any leftover soup you have will freeze well.

Curried Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup

Kabocha squash and apples, flavoured with curry powder, onions, garlic and ginger, simmered and then whirled into a silky soup enhanced with coconut milk.

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 27 to 32 minutes

Makes: About seven cups

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

4 cups peeled, seeded and cubed kabocha squash, (see note)

1 large garlic clove, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped, peeled, fresh ginger

1 Tbsp mild or medium curry powder

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth, plus more if needed

1 (400 mL) can coconut milk

2 medium, or 1 large apple, peeled, cored and cubed

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

• chopped parsley or cilantro, to taste (optional)

Pour oil into a medium to large pot set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onions and cook until softened, about five minutes. Mix in the squash, garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook and stir two minutes more.

Add the 3 cups of stock (or broth), coconut milk and apples to the pot and stir to combine. Bring soup to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer soup 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash is very tender.

Puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or in the pot with an immersion (hand) blender. Blend a bit more stock (or broth) into the soup, if you find it too thick.

Set the soup back on the heat, return to a simmer, and then taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Ladle the soup into bowls, top each serving with some chopped parsley (or cilantro), if using, and enjoy.

Note: The kabocha squash I bought for the recipe weighed about two kilograms. About half of the squash, when peeled, seeded and cubed, yielded the four cups I needed for the soup. Bag, refrigerate and save the rest of the squash for another use, such as those noted in my story. It will keep several days in the refrigerator.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.