The other day my friend Sarah and I went to a class at Too’s Cooking School in Annandale run by two hilarious and charismatic gentlemen (always a winner with me) named Brendan and Kevin Too. We were there for the Spectacular Seafood class among sixteen other people. After going through the basics including the ingredients, the recipes and some knife skills, we broke into 4 teams of four to prepare a dish. At the end, we all sat down to devour our creations and discuss what we had learnt. My group were assigned the task of making a Southeast Asian style paste to spread on top of juicy white fish fillets and grill them en papillote (I believe banana leaves are traditionally used) on the barbeque.
Oh, the flavour of this paste! What started out as masses of seemingly intimidating ingredients (some I knew of but had never used before) were ground down to a paste that not only went perfectly with this fish, but I would imagine that it would become something that I would keep on hand to add to any seafood that required a little kick (as well as chicken and soup).
Cue this pumpkin soup: Boom!
I had to re-create the paste from memory as I had left the recipe at work. I am positive that I left a few things out and added in a couple of ingredients that were not in the original recipe. The main aim for me, however, was to get that balance of salty, sweet, spicy and sour that is so prevalent in Southeast Asian cooking.
I wish I had taken a photo of the actual paste and I’m sorry that I didn’t. All that you really need know is once all the ingredients below are whizzed up together, the resulting concoction is so flavourful and aromatic that all other concerns (such as food blogging) are set aside and you’re engrossed in the task at hand.
There isn't much sugar in this; the butternut pumpkin and the coconut lends a natural sweetness to balance things out nicely.
This soup is for those who are looking for something a little different to your run of the mill butternut pumpkin soup – just be aware that you may lose yourself while making it. And that is not a bad thing at all.
Get ready people, 'cos here come the ingredients....
For the Southeast Asian style paste
Thumb sized piece of galangal, roughly chopped
Thumb sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 whole long red chilli, seeds optional, roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, roughly chopped
Thumb sized piece of fresh turmeric, roughly chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
1 bunch of coriander, roots and stems roughly chopped reserving some of the leaves.
1 tbsp palm sugar, or raw sugar
2 eschalots, roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Blend all ingredients until you have a paste. Reserve 3 tablespoons for the soup and store
the rest in and airtight container covered with a little oil in the fridge. Will keep for up to a week.
For the soup
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 handful of curry leaves
1.5 litres vegetable stock
400g can light coconut cream
Fish sauce to taste
Juice from 1 lime
Coconut chips, toasted
1 tbsp coconut oil
Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over a medium to high heat. Add the curry leaves and the above paste and fry until fragrant. Add the stock, lime juice, fish sauce and pumpkin and then bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes and until the pumpkin is tender. Add the coconut cream and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
Serve topped with coconut chips and coriander leaves.