From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Over the course of the next few days, I plan to share a handful of recipes from our recent Himalayan adventures. I must begin by telling you that people don't make this long journey for the food they'll be eating in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. The food is very basic and what is served to visitors is repetitive, and most of the bland and tepid dishes are served buffet style. Ruth Reichl has been quoted as calling Bhutan's food "the world's worst cuisine." That's a bit harsh. I know she is at the top of her game, but when I talk about food from another country, I constantly remind myself that someone's mother has slaved over dishes I'm tempted to criticize and brush aside. That being said, while the food in Nepal is decent, that in Tibet and Bhutan tends to be bland because chilies, probably with good reason, are removed from dishes prepared for Westerners. One constant on our buffet tables was a dish called "chili cheese", a casserole made with yak cheese and fiery chilies. I tend to be an adventurous eater and I'll try anything once, but my first experience with chili cheese left me gasping for air and praying that St. George would appear and slay me before the fire I was breathing, torched the room. Soups, which we had every night, were on the other end of the spectrum and generally made with pumpkin or mushrooms that were watered down and desperately in need of seasoning. Dried meats are used throughout this area and they are difficult, if not impossible, to find in most state-side markets. For that reason, I decided the first recipe I wanted to share with you would be a simple soup made with pumpkin or yellow squash and ingredients you already have in your pantry. While you want to check the soup for seasoning before it is served, the spices used are typical of those used in the mountain kingdoms and the only liberty I've taken with the basic recipe is to offer a choice of coconut milk or cream. Coconut milk is not an ingredient used in the region, but I had a can of it and thought I could make good use of it here. This is a basic soup and very easy to make. If you are curious, here is how it is made.
Curried Pumpkin Soup...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans solid-pack pumpkin or 4 cups pureed butternut squash
7 cups water
1-1/2 cups strong vegetable broth
2 cups light cream or 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1) In a large soup pot, heat butter over moderate heat and add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add cumin, coriander, and cardamom, stirring well to combine.
2) Add salt, pepper flakes, pumpkin, water, broth, and cream or coconut milk, stirring to combine. Simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Puree using an immersion blender, or in batches using a food processor or regular blender, until smooth. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for 1 day. May be served chilled or reheated when ready to serve. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
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