All souped up
I think one of those foods that is classically so synonymous with the cool season of winter is soup. Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I hate soup. I think it’s the most boring way to eat food and I would certainly never order it on the menu of any restaurant. Why? I don’t know. I think I just have this perception that all soup is just cheap, out-of-date vegetables and 80c tins of beans, chucked in a food processor then stewed on a stove for far too long.
Perhaps I’ve developed a complex from being forced to eat my Grandma’s bean stew as a child. (Sorry Grandma, but it was awful.) This challenge of creating a soup recipe intrigued me though. How can I turn the idea of a thick, gluggy mess into something that I would happily order on any menu!?
As you would know by now, I have no aversion to Asian flavours. My time in the orient changed the way that I think about food and how important flavour is. Choosing flavour was going to be my first step. Secondly, I needed a base. A vegetable that was going to be versatile and also give me plenty of flavour – naturally, I chose the butternut pumpkin. This tasty little pumpkin is sweet, full of flavour and has a fantastic texture when cooked.
My last assurance is that this soup is going to be rich, full of flavour and also be super creamy. There might not be a single bigger crime than making a soup that is watery.
• ½ cup of good quality Thai curry paste
• Shallots – diced, a generous handful is enough
• 1 butternut pumpkin – cubed and roasted
• 2 tins coconut cream – the ones without the thickener in it
• Fish sauce
• Lime juice
• Palm sugar
• Lemongrass stick
• 4 Kaffir lime leaves
• Fried shallots
• Fresh chilli
• Thai basil
• Fresh lime cheek
1. To begin, I fry up a generous amount of curry paste. Now I’ll leave it up to you to decide which curry paste you choose, but make sure its south-east Asian! Green curry or red curry are my go-to’s. I make mine from scratch, but you can use one from a jar.
2. Once my curry paste is fragrant, I throw in a handful of diced shallots along with a stick of lemongrass and some kaffir lime leaves. Gently fry these until the onion starts to caramelise, then add two tins of good quality coconut cream and reduce to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, cut a whole butternut into cubes, lightly oil then bake in the oven until they start to caramelise. This caramelisation is where a lot of flavour is going to come from.
4. Once roasted to perfection, pop your punky into the simmering broth. Take out the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, blitz your soup with a blender or stick blender, then once done, return the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to the pot.
5. Next is the tricky part – the balancing of flavours! You’re going to use a few different ingredients to achieve this – fish sauce for saltiness and funk, fresh lime juice for acidity, fresh chilli for heat and a touch of palm sugar for sweetness. Don’t be afraid to use these generously for max effect.
6. Reduce your soup until it is nice and thick and when it comes time to serving, please go absolutely overboard on fresh herbs and garnish. Like, so much! This is very important.
I also happened to have some fresh crayfish on hand at the time of making my soup, which I fried and tossed in at the end. You could do the same for prawns or even chicken.
Harry Foster is a former Masterchef Australia contestant and NQ lad who each edition gives us a taste of his energetic approach to food.
Follow Harry’s foodie adventures on Instagram @hazfos