With or without meat, a zesty bowl of pumpkin or squash soup garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds is an Autumn through Wintertime favorite.
Once you’ve got the basic concept of a spiced pumpkin soup down, it’s likely to become a favorite. There’s almost no end to possible flavor combinations – from simply shaking in your favorite Thai-style or Indian-style blend to trying a little of this and a little of that based on what’s on hand in your spice rack.
A new twist for us this time around was the addition of mahlab, an aromatic Middle East spice made from grinding the seeds of the St. Lucie, or Mahaleb, Cherry. Think almonds with a hint of cherries. This was, for us, a new spice recently ordered from Penzeys Spices. Although it’s usually used as an addition to pastries, breads, and custards (this spice will definitely go into our next crème brûlée) one whiff and we knew it would be a perfect compliment to pumpkin soup. If you’d like to do some of your own experimenting with this unique spice, we recommend that you purchase the seeds whole and grind them yourself as, reportedly, the flavor of powdered mahlab goes off fairly quickly.
Having just come into some really wonderful moose meat courtesy of a friend, we pan fried some in olive oil and cumin to add to the soup. Other wild game, beef or chicken would work well, too. Alternatively, this soup makes for an excellent vegetarian dish by going sans mean and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth. Although not necessary, a little maple syrup is very good in this soup.
- 2 pounds roasted pumpkin (preferably a pie pumpkin) or squash such as Butternut Squash
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tsp powdered Mahlab
- 1/2 tsp lemon grass
- 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp almond butter (or substitute a quality peanut butter)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 4 tbsp maple syrup (or 2 tbsp brown sugar)
- sea salt
- 2 tbsp dried red bell peppers (or use fresh, diced fine)
- 1 pound moose meat, other wild game, beef or chicken cut small, seasoned with cumin powder and cracked pepper, and pan fried in olive oil
- smoked paprika (to garnish)
- roasted pumpkin seeds (to garnish)
- drizzles of extra virgin olive oil (to garnish)
- Place a baking sheet on lower center rack of oven and preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- Cut pumpkin in half and remove stem and seeds. Slice into wedges and use a very sharp knife to cut away stringy matter. Leave skin on and brush pumpkin flesh with olive oil. Place skin side down on a preheated backing sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. Test with a fork. It should be very soft.
- Remove pumpkin wedges from oven and place on a cutting board to cool an lower oven to 300° F (150° C).
- Meanwhile, clean seeds and place in a bowl. Mix with a little olive oil and sea salt. Spread evenly in a single layer over baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Place seeds on paper towels to cool.
- Meanwhile cut the pumpkin away from the rind. In a large pot over low heat, combine pumpkin chunks and chicken broth and use a stick blender to purée until smooth. It is a good idea to hold some chicken broth in reserve to ensure that soup is sufficiently thick.
- Add Thai chili paste, seasonings and almond butter, mix well. Bring mixture to a very low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add salt and additional seasonings as desired.
- Add coconut cream and maple syrup. Use a stick blender to thoroughly combine.
- Add cooked meat and red bell peppers and let simmer a few more minutes.
- Serve hot with roasted pumpkin seed, a sprinkle of smoke paprika, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Well, you can bet I’ve never tried moose meat, and I probably never will unless I travel to the far north! But what is mahlab?
Mahlab is a new spice for us we ordered from Penzeys to experiment with. It’s traditionally a baking spice used widely in the Middle East. Made from cherry pits.
Oh, I have heard of it! Is it bitter?
We read that it can become bitter if stored for too long in powdered form. We purchased the whole pits and use a spice grinder to create fresh powder as necessary. Even whole, the scent of almond-peanut and cherry is up front. (We read “bitter” almonds, but really did not note any bitterness.) As the spice become infused in the soup, it revealed floral notes as well. Using it in pumpkin soup was an experiment… We felt it worked very well. We’re looking forward to baking this into breads, cookies and pastries…
We think in pie crusts, too, would be nice.
Wow. Incredible. What fun to experiment with such a unique food! BTW your pumpkin soup looked wonderful – I forgot to say so!
The recipe sounds interesting and tasty, have to save it and try it soon!
Thanks, Chef. This soup is versatile and has worked well with other meats, too. Hope all is well in Croatia!