Rich Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

A bit of a misnomer here. The prawns in this recipe make it an even more rich and hearty soup than its name suggests – almost a meal in itself. The pumpkin gives substance to the ensemble, while the coconut adds its pleasant richness to that of the prawns.

In Thailand, such a soup features only coconut milk, but I have substituted some chicken stock for a portion of the milk; this makes it lighter and, I believe, even more satisfying. But the taste of Thailand shines through.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 225 g (8 oz) raw prawns
  • ½ egg white
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 2 small fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • handful basil leaves, shredded

Method

Peel the hard skin of the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces. Toss with the lime juice and set aside.

Peel the prawns and discard the shells. Using a small sharp knife, remove the fine digestive cord. Rinse the prawns in cold water and pat them dry with kitchen paper.

In a blender or food processor, thoroughly combine the prawns with the egg white, shallots, shrimp paste, chillies, water, fish sauce, garlic, coriander, sugar, salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan, bring the stock and coconut milk to a simmer. Add the blended prawn mixture, slowly stir and continue to simmer gently for about 2 minutes. Then add the pumpkin and continue to cook for another 10–12 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Now add the basil leaves and give the soup several good stirs. Turn the soup into a soup tureen and serve at once.

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