Nowadays, I am in-love with anything that has coconut in it. Perhaps because I do miss my lovely island of Marinduque where we are surrounded by towering coconut trees. I have so many lovely memories of my childhood that involves this amazing tree and of course, it's delicious fruit. My parents own some piece of land in the barrio (small village in the outskirts of our town). Most of the land is devoted to rice fields but the mountainous areas are all covered with coconut trees. My parents have tenants who stay in the land either for free or for a very low rent and in return cultivate the rice crops among other things. Occasionally, we visited and to see how things were going, if the harvest would be plentiful as the rice that we ate then really came from these fields (well, when I was young I really didn't care for that but my parents did, of course.) For me, I was more concerned if we would either be able to ride the carabao (our beast of burden and really the farmer's best friend in the Philippines) during the visit and if they would be willing to give us some fresh coconuts straight from the tree.
Oftentimes, the tenants indulge us and kindly climb up the coconut tree armed with a machete and no protected gear at all to bring us some fresh and hopefully young coconut fruit. They seemed to be able to tell whether it was a young or a mature fruit simply by shaking the fruit and listening to its hollow sound. I never understood how it worked to this day. Naturally, we wanted the young ones (we call them "mura") as they tasted so much better and so much easier to eat as well as they are softer than the matured coconut flesh.
I loved how our tenants were deftly able to make coconut spoons (yes, out of the coconut husks) that we used to scrape the yummy coconut flesh out of the fruit. They opened a hole on top the coconut - big enough that we could easily scoop the flesh out and then if we were fortunate and they were available we were given extra brown sugar and even evaporated milk to mix in with the coconut juice and flesh. What a wonderfully refreshing, completely organic and truly healthy snack it was! It was worth accompanying my parents and walking down the narrow strips and muddy rice fields just to have that. Even when I was away in college, when I went home for the holidays, I often asked my parents to let me go back to the barrio so I can have my fresh coconut snack. Someday, I hope my kids will be able to enjoy this! I am sure they'll love it as much as I did.
Well, that was my little trip down memory lane. Back to the task at hand, here's a new recipe that has all the wonderful flavors of coconut and pumpkin (butternut squash really but it's in the pumpkin family, right?) flavored with warm spices that results in a deliciously satisfying soup. Make it before winter is over! Enjoy this yummy soup!
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
3 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 teaspoons freshly grated Ginger
2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (or raw honey for paleo dieters)
3 cups or 1 1/2 lb Butternut Squash, peeled and sliced into chunks
3 cups Vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 (14 oz) can or homemade Coconut Milk
1-2 fresh Thai red chili, chopped*
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Coconut, for garnish
*Depends on the heat level you prefer. One should be fine as a bird's eye chili (Thai chili) is truly hot but you can up the spice level if you like or to make a mild soup, de-seed the chili first.
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook just until aromatic. Add the rest of the spices and the sugar. Give a quick stir and then add the butternut squash. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the butternut squash is fully coated by the spices.
Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down for a few minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to the saucepan and reheat on low to medium heat. Pour in the coconut cream and let boil and then simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped chili and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with some shredded coconut on top! Oh so yummy!
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