For many of us, the transition from autumn into winter is difficult. We tend to be happiest under a blaze of sunshine and the get-up-and-go attitude you get in the summer is contagious.

However, every year, it’s the excitement of winter dishes and flavours that rescues me from impending gloom, reminding me just how wonderful and delicious this time of year can be. A warm hearty soup is a favourite so, to make this a little bit more interesting, I wanted to whip up an exotic soup using Japanese pumpkin, coconut, miso and sweet potato. With recipes like this, I’m more than happy to welcome the cooler season as a good excuse to experience something new.

This soup is delicious and will leave you hungry for more. The combination of nutty and sweet with salty and savoury goes hand in hand. If you are not a huge fan of red or green Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) then you can also try using a sugar pumpkin or butternut squash. All of these will go perfectly with miso, adding complexity without tasting overpowering.

Serves 2
Shopping List:

1 medium Japanese winter pumpkin (Kabocha) or butternut squash
1 small sweet potato
2 tablespoons creamed coconut
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced or finely chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced or finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons mellow white or yellow miso
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh spring onions, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon shichimi togarashi or black and/or white sesame seeds

Method:

Firstly, preheat the oven to 200°C/ Gas mark 6/ 400°F.

Rinse the pumpkin under cold running water and towel dry.

Like all winter squash, a sharp knife and a bit of brute force are needed to slice off the top and the bottom of the pumpkin, exposing the flesh. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into thin wedges, leaving the skin on.

Next, make a light dressing. In a small bowl add the creamed coconut and slowly pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil whilst gently whisking and season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the pumpkin and ensure all the pumpkin wedges are coated well. Place the pumpkin into an ovenproof dish and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour cold water into a large saucepan until it’s two thirds full and place on high heat until it comes to boil. Whilst the water is heating, peel and cut the sweet potatoes into bite-size pieces. Once boiling, add half a teaspoon of salt and carefully add the sweet potato to the boiling water and boil for about 20 minutes.

Once the sweet potatoes are nicely tender (pierce with a knife if you are unsure), place into a colander. Run under cold water for about 20 seconds and set aside.

Remove the Japanese winter pumpkin from the oven, looking crispy and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. If you have left the pumpkin skins on, remove them when the Japanese pumpkin is cool enough to handle.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. After a minute add the shallots, garlic and ginger, cook until softened for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sweet potato and cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes begin to colour.

Next, add the miso and vegetable stock and stir until dissolved. Add the roasted Japanese winter pumpkin and simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a slow-medium to avoid boiling. Once all the ingredients are perfectly infused, turn off the heat.

If you prefer to puree the soup use an immersion blender, or puree in a blender or food processor. However, if you prefer your soup a little chunky, use a potato masher until you achieve your desired consistency. To serve, garnish with coriander, spring onions and a little sprinkle of shichimi togarashi. The citrusy and spiciness of the chillies will keep you feeling warm and lovely with every spoonful.

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