Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Cream of coconut jack-o-lantern soup

Jerry Stratton, October 20, 2021

If last year’s jack-o-lantern soup wasn’t gruesome enough, try mixing your pumpkin’s disgouged facial parts with coconut and ginger.

Servings: 2
Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut milk (reserve 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small potato, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ pound pumpkin pieces
  • ⅓ cup shredded coconut
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon thyme
  • ⅛ teaspoon parsley
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • pinch of lime zest (optional)
  • ¼ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded coconut for toasting (optional)

Steps

  1. Wrap the pumpkin pieces in aluminum foil and bake at 350° until tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the onion in the butter until just softened, about four minutes at medium-low.
  3. Add the potato, garlic, pumpkin, and coconut milk (reserving 2 tablespoons for later) and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut, ginger, and spices (including the lime zest if using).
  5. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the bay leaf and purée in a blender until smooth.
  7. Return pan to heat and whisk in the yogurt and reserved coconut milk.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Optionally, sprinkle toasted coconut over each bowl after serving. Toast them by baking on a sheet at 300° for three to five minutes.
Jack-o-lantern pair

Double the pumpkins, double the body parts.

This is how cereal killers are born: baking the leftover body parts of my Hallowe’en jack-o-lantern worked so well in 2019 that I decided to carve two pumpkins in 2020.

That meant I had two one-cup (or half-pound) pumpkin recipes to try out. The first, a pumpkin cookie from the Better Homes & Gardens Homemade Cookies book, was fine but nothing to blog about. Partly it’s my own preferences—I prefer crispier or chewier cookies, and this was a standard sort of light, fluffy drop cookie. I was a little disappointed, though: this has otherwise been a very good cookbook.

My original plan was to use the other half of the pumpkin to make last year’s soup. I don’t buy pumpkin, normally, except for Hallowe’en, and I was looking forward to having this soup again. But while browsing through Carole Clements’s Gourmet Soup Book I saw a recipe for “Pumpkin and Coconut Soup”. It looked like a lot of work—it required milking and grating a fresh coconut—but the soup itself looked very, very good. This is a great book that I don’t use often enough, and this looked like an opportunity to try another recipe from it.

Pumpkin-coconut soup

Toasted coconut sprinkled over pumpkin-coconut soup.

Being lazy, I heavily modified her recipe to use ingredients I already had on hand—including jettisoning the fresh coconut in favor of pre-shredded dry coconut and canned coconut milk from a local Indian supermarket. And then cut the recipe back to fit a half pound of pumpkin instead of the 1-¾ pounds her recipe requires. Instead of a bouquet garni, I just added the spices directly, even further simplifying it.

The whole thing’s going to be run through a blender at the end anyway.

For the coconut milk, I used Aroy-D from a local Indian food market. It comes in 14-ounce cans and is just under two cups. Add water to bring to two cups after reserving two tablespoons for the end of the recipe. Depending on how thick the coconut milk is, you may have to add water while simmering to keep it from scorching on the bottom. I added about a quarter cup of water, and Aroy-D is already 40% water.

Her recipe seems to indicate that the pumpkin does not have to be softened before simmering with the potato. This is probably true, but I can’t guarantee it. I had already baked all of the pumpkin’s facial parts before making the cookies. While twenty minutes, to me, doesn’t seem long enough to soften raw pumpkin it did work for the potatoes. You may wish to experiment. If simmering the cubes raw with the potatoes, I’d guess that the cubes need to be small.

If you choose to follow my lead and bake or roast them ahead of time, the softened pumpkin can be stored several days in the refrigerator. You can, of course, also use any leftover canned pumpkin you have from other recipes.

Her recipe also calls for whipping cream; I used full-fat Greek yogurt instead, because I like it in puréed soups.

Pumpkin cookies

The cookies were fine, but nothing like the soup.

Clements’s recipe, and mine, optionally call for toasted coconut sprinkled over the top. Something crunchy over the creamy texture of the soup is a great idea. Croutons would also work well, perhaps garlicky croutons. Coconut croutons, and I’ve no idea how they’d be made, would probably be amazing.

I’m not sure how much the pinch of lime zest added to the flavor; the original recipe called for lemongrass, which I didn’t have on hand, but I did have some lime zest in the freezer. Since lemongrass really does have a faint lemon flavor, and because I often substitute lime for lemon in recipes, I dropped in a pinch of lime zest. This is admittedly several leaps in logic. Nor was there much lime flavor in the resulting soup, so I don’t know how much it mattered.

This is a very different recipe from last year’s cream of jack-o-lantern. That was a down-to-earth, homey recipe; this is more elegant. The ginger really puts it over the top. I keep fresh ginger in the freezer. When I buy ginger for a recipe, I peel what I don’t need, chop it into about one-or-two-tablespoon chunks, wrap each chunk individually in plastic wrap, and put it all in a plastic bag in the freezer. When it thaws, it is very soft and easily mashed or finely chopped; it is not easily sliced, as it no longer has much in the way of solidity.

For all its elegance, this is still a soup made from the body parts of your Hallowe’en pumpkin, a device ostensibly meant to protect you from evil spirits. Last year I wrote “horror movies start this way”, and… the 2020 election was only three days after Hallowe’en.

Take that as you will.

In response to Cream of Jack-o-Lantern soup: Use the body parts of your hallowe’en pumpkin to make a tasty, if disconcerting, pumpkin soup.