On a cool, rainy fall day, hard squashes like pumpkins, butternut and kabocha really hit the spot for me. You won’t see many butternut squash or pumpkins in Japan, but there are plenty of kabocha squash. The kabocha has a similar flavor and texture to a butternut squash, but unlike a butternut the kabocha’s thin skin is edible. I learned from another teacher at school that the best time for kabocha is actually late summer in July and August, but then the weather is so hot so I’m not really in the mood for a hearty roasted squash dish just yet. Japan’s long, hot growing season means the squashes are ready to eat much earlier in the year than I’m used to seeing them. Luckily, these squashes store well so I can enjoy them in the fall and winter too.
I bought a local kabocha the other day and decided that it would make a great creamy soup. I decided to use ume-shu to add both sweet and sour notes to the soup. I also used a bunch of spices, but I think the soup could be just as good with simpler seasoning. Feel free to spice it to your own taste.
Spiced Kabocha and Apple Soup
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
pinch of salt
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup ume-shu (plum wine, can substitute white wine)
1 small kabocha or half of a larger kabocha, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 to 6 cups water or chicken stock
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
ground nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder to taste
2 whole star anise, optional
heaping tablespoon Saikyo miso (Kyoto-style sweet white miso)
lemon juice, vinegar, or apple juice to taste
fresh cream, sour cream, or yogurt
In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil or butters. Add the onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables over low heat. When the vegetables are tender add the apple. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Add ume-shu and scrape the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon to remove any browned bits. Add the kabocha, stock or water, ginger, and spices. Simmer until the kabocha is tender, at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the star anise from the soup. Add a heaping tablespoon of Saikyo miso. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and spices. If the soup is very sweet but not very tangy, add lemon juice, vinegar, or apple juice to add a sour contrasting note.
To serve, top with a bit of fresh cream, sour cream, or yogurt.
copyright 2008, LMS