When we travel to Jamaica we always look forward to the pumpkin soup. Although the version I make at home uses the same squash, I like the pumpkin soup of the Caribbean much better. It has taken me a long time to figure out what exactly makes the difference in the flavors.
First of all, there are the spices. Despite the fact I use pumpkin in all sorts of dishes, the temptation to put in a seasoning such as cinnamon or nutmeg is a force I can rarely overcome. After years of only eating pumpkin pie and bread it’s as if my brain says – there’s pumpkin, must add some variation of pumpkin pie spice – even when it’s a savory dish.
Second is the heat. I never added any type of hot peppers to my version, but I now believe that is what makes a pumpkin soup outstanding. It isn’t spicy; it’s just a mild, warming heat in the back of your throat after each bite. That’s accomplished with Scotch Bonnet peppers which I just happened to grow in our garden this year. They came on late, but I have a nice bag full in the freezer to pull from for occasions like this one.
On one of our recent trips I picked up the cookbook, Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke. Inside is a recipe for Pumpkin Lobster Bisque. Now pumpkin I had, but lobster I did not, so I tried modifying the recipe hoping it would turn out like the pumpkin soups we’ve had while traveling.
It’s definitely the closest I’ve come and much better than my standard version of winter squash soup. In this case, I think it’s the closest I want to get. Sometimes you want to make sure that there is still plenty of reason to travel for the real thing.
Caribbean-style Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Pumpkin Lobster Bisque from Eat Caribbean
2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups roasted pumpkin flesh, mashed
3 tbsp of tomato sauce (or 2 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
1 ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup cream or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small soup pot over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pumpkin and tomato sauce. Next, add the thyme and scotch bonnet pepper.
Pour in the stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stir occasionally. If you want more heat, gently pierce the scotch bonnet pepper as it cooks.
Remove the thyme and pepper and discard. Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients. Or you can transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth.
Stir in the cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Return to low heat if necessary to heat the soup through. Serves 4-6. Garnish with croutons if desired.