Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

25th October 2015

Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup, YUM! It’s that time of year again, Halloween week! The most exciting part of October and I’ve got two equally exciting dishes to fulfil your desire for pumpkin. It wouldn’t be Halloween if you didn’t use the orange pumpkin as your spooky decoration to scare your tick or treaters. However, I will be introducing the Kabocha Pumpkin, which can be a tasty staple in your winter shopping trolleys from now on.

You may know that I used to live in Chicago, where I trained to be a chef. However, every October my inner child would emerge and this was when my excitement for Halloween began. I was completely shocked about the amount of effort that even my professors put in to the celebration. Now its just tradition for me, so will these dishes be to you.

The Kabocha pumpkin is the Japanese version of the ‘normal’ pumpkin. It has a distinctive forest green thick skin and its sweet rich deep flavours compare to butternut squash.  In Japan we eat Kabocha often in winter. One year my mum took it a little too far when she threw the seeds in a natural compost for our back garden. Every year since then our garden is filled with loads of kabocha, so we are always being inventive with ways to use them, from tempura to kabocha salads.

The kabocha wouldn’t be a staple food of mine, if it didn’t contain health benefits and luckily it has plenty.  For starters, if you are calorie counting, forget butternut squash. Kabocha has the same sweet creamy taste but at least 20% less calories and less than half of the carbs.  Another bonus is that it is a good source of iron and vitamins C and B. Not to mention the fiber content, which allows us to enjoy the entirety of it, including the skin. This super food is not hard to find and is probably sitting in your local green grocer, or can be ordered in if you ask nicely. Comfort food just got less guilty!

Accompanying both dishes today are two different types of miso, infusing a distinct, humble Japanese flavour. I love miso so much, that I even have a miso workshop coming up in late November, more information here: Special Workshop Details. If you want to get creative I suggest you come along for a fun filled evening.

Lets get started!

Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

Kabocha Pumpkin with White Miso and Soya Milk Soup

This soup is a perfect meal for when you want something filling but don’t have the luxury of time. Wholemeal bread or rice is a great accompaniment for the creamy texture from the soya milk and the gentle hint of Japanese flavour from the white (saikyo) miso. Saikyo miso originates from Kyoto with its pale color and sweet taste, it is a real crowd pleaser. I normally buy Clearspring’s Saikyo Miso, but if you opt for a normal miso use less to better balance the flavours.

Ingredients – Serves 4 
600g Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin skinned 
1 medium carrot
1 stalk of celery 
1white onion
2tbs olive oil 
600ml kombu stock 
400ml soya milk
3tbs White Miso 
A pinch of black salt and pepper
Chopped Chives 
Slice the onion, carrot, celery and dice the kabocha, having skinned and seeded it.
Sauté the onion, carrots and celery for 10 minutes with the olive oil and add the kabocha. Cook for 3minutes. Pour the kombu dashi (stock) into the pan and bring to the boil. Then, let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the Kabocha is soft.
Puree in a liquidiser or food processor until very smooth. Return to the pot and pour in the soya milk. Bring up just before boiling point, add miso, salt and pepper to taste. 
Simmer for a couple of minutes further, stirring well 
Serve with chopped chives.
Recipe tips:
You can use butternuts squash or any types of pumpkins if you can not find the Kabocha pumpkin. 

Cutting tips- be careful! Stab the pumpkin with a fork to hold it secure when cutting. To soften, put the kabocha in the microwave for 4-5 mins before cutting.


Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup

Kabocha Hoto Noodle Soup

This soup is close to my heart and brings back memories of my childhood when my dad would ask my mum for it, as our Saturday lunch. It is a very traditional dish in my hometown of Yamanashi, normally using a thick wheat noodle similar to Udon noodles. The region of Koshu is famous for its wine but also provides a beautiful dark miso the perfect choice for this soup.

Lets get cooking!

Ingredients – Serves 4
250g (60-70g/person) Wheat noodles like udon noodles or fresh udon
200g Kabocha pumpkin or butternut squash
1 Leek
A head of Shitake mushrooms or any oriental mushrooms
100g of Shimeji mushrooms
1500 ml Shitake mushroom Dashi (Japanese stock)
Large 3 tbsp Koshu Miso or red miso
First make the Shitake mushroom stock. Put the water and dried-shitake mushrooms into a deep pot and soak overnight. Or if you are short of time, you can add hot water and soak for just 10 minutes. Squeeze out the mushrooms and then remove them from the stock. Slice the mushrooms thinly.
Cut the Kabocha into 3cm pieces and add to the shitake mushrooms. Break the shitake mushrooms into smaller pieces. Cut the leek along its length and slice it into 3cm wide diagonal pieces. 
Heat up the pot with the stock and add the kabocha, mushrooms and leek. Cook them for around 8 minutes until they soften. Add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes or follow the precise instructions from the package. If the kabocha starts to become too soft, remove it from the pot and leave to one side, before adding back later.
Remove from the heat and add the miso. 
Recipe tips:
– You can add nappa cabbage or any root vegetables. 
– Make your own hand-made fresh noodles, using the recipe from Yuki’s hand-made udon class.  

If your feeling inspired and you’d like to find out more about miso, do come along to the miso making workshop. I contributed to ‘Spoilt Rotten’ an article all about fermentation in the September Vogue magazine. As the colder months approach, if you are looking for a different take on the roast, my take on it featured in this article in the Guardian: ‘It’s not all gravy: Alternative roast dinner recipes’.

With Christmas on its way, if you are looking for present inspiration, I have vouchers available for all my classes or for private lessons. For more details: Japanese Cooking Vouchers

Enjoy and have a great, spooky Halloween!