The first recipe is based on one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s wonderful River Cottage Cookbook. The coconut milk version is my own take on H. F.-W.’s great but ridiculously rich idea – a vegan twist with a Thai taste. You can use any kind of winter squash for this so long as it’s basically bowl-shaped to begin with.
Squash Soup served in the Shell
- two or more smallish winter squash, like acorn, kabocha or buttercup, one per person
- freshly grated gruyere cheese, enough to fill each squash 1/3 of the way up (about ¼-1/2
- cup per squash)
- heavy cream, enough to fill each squash about 2/3 of the way up (about ½ – ¾ cup per squash)
- nutmeg to taste (freshly grated is best)
- salt and pepper to taste
- small pieces of tinfoil or parchment, well oiled
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tops off the squash to form a lid. Cut a little bit of the bottom off of the squash so that it will sit flat. Be careful not to cut too deeply – you don’t want to make a hole in the bottom. Scoop the seeds and strings out of the squash.
Fill each squash 1/3 of the way up with cheese, then pour the heavy cream over the top to about 2/3 of the way up. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Carefully put the filled squash into a baking dish, with a small piece of parchment or tinfoil beneath each squash (this will help you to lift the squash out of the dish without making a hole in the bottom of it). Alternatively, the squash can be baked in individual oven-safe bowls set on a sheet tray. Set the tops back on each squash to form a lid.
Bake for about an hour, turning halfway through so they cook evenly. When the squash are done, a toothpick will slide easily into the soft flesh. Watch them carefully toward the end so they don’t collapse. Remove them very carefully from the baking dish so you don’t break them and let the liquid run out. Set into bowls, or serve them directly in their baking bowls. To eat, you simply scoop some flesh off the side of the squash and spoon it up with melted cheese and cream.
Thai-flavored Squash Soup
Follow the directions above except substitute canned coconut milk (well-stirred; low-fat is fine) for the cream and leave out the cheese. Add hot red pepper flakes, brown sugar, freshly grated ginger and salt to taste (just a pinch of each is good). If you have some lime leaf or lemon grass around, chop off a small piece and throw that in, too. Bake as above. If desired, serve more crushed hot pepper, fish sauce, chopped fresh basil, and a wedge of lime on the side for diners to add as desired.