Pumpkin Soup with Garam Masala & Crème Fraiche
A few years back I discovered the beautiful combination of pumpkin and garam masala. I think I was making a pumpkin polenta and, like the Swedish Chef on the Muppets, kind of just threw it in. I’ve been in love with the combo ever since.
Garam masala is a traditional South Asian spice blend. It’s spicy and full-flavored but has no real heat to it. The blend differs from region to region but usually includes peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and bay leaves but can also include nutmeg, star anise, and even saffron. I usually make my own at home because sometimes it’s added whole and sometimes ground. But you can find the spice blend in powdered form at most supermarkets these days. It can completely overwhelm a dish, so the key is to use it sparingly.
I debated a lot of different forms for the spice / vegetable combo – everything from waffles to pumpkin pie. I settled on soup because it’s the perfect fall food – warm, comforting, and aromatic. There’s sweetness from the pumpkin, the garam masala spice in the background, a little kick from the cayenne and a fantastic tanginess and mouth-feel from the crème fraiche…really delicious. I used smaller sugar pumpkins because they are sweeter and have a more developed flavor than the larger ones, but even butternut squash would be beautiful here if you have it on hand. Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
2 small sugar pumpkins (3 to 4 lbs each), halved and seeded
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tbsps unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground garam masala
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp brown sugar
few sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine
3 cups stock
1/3 cup crème fraiche
chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400° F. Drizzle the inside of the pumpkin halves with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place halves flesh side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roast for 45 to 50 minutes until very tender. Let cool slightly, and then scoop out the flesh into a bowl and reserve.
In a soup pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, salt, garam masala, black pepper, and cayenne and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and the brown sugar and cook for another minute.
Now, add back in the pumpkin along with the thyme, bay leaf and white wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the wine has mostly absorbed. Add the stock and bring up to a simmer. Simmer for 35 minutes partially covered to finish cooking and let all of the flavors combine.
Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Add the crème fraiche and either transfer to a blender or use a hand blender to puree to your desired consistency. I like mine with a bit of texture.
Serve sprinkled with chives and a nice piece of crusty bread!