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Wednesday, October 31

Hokkaido Soup

I recently did a cooking class for some of my housewife friends in town.  They are all American Expat women and we’ve talked about me teaching a class for some time now and finally this past week that became a reality.

We had the class over lunch so it wouldn't interrupt our evening schedules with husbands or other commitments.  I planned to give recipes, tips, and cook with them.

Beforehand I asked what they wanted to learn and squash (because it’s fall) and chicken came up multiple times.  I therefore planned a menu around those two things.  The menu was Hokkaido (also known as Red Kuri) Squash soup, Butternut, Sausage and Penne casserole, Stuffed Chicken with Goat cheese and Basil and Baked Apples.  

Fall Squashes are underestimated; often they’re one thing people shy away from because they seem intimidating and people don’t know what to do with them or how to cook them.  Because of this dilemma, I almost always suggest trying different kinds of squashes in soup or pasta form. 

I came up with this recipe for its simplicity and comfort for this weather.  
Hokkaido (Red Kuri Squash) Soup
Serves 6

1 Red Kuri squash, 1 kilogram (2 pounds)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion
2 medium cloves garlic
6 sage leafs, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3- 4 cups water (depending on your preference for the thickness of the soup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup cream

Preheat oven to 375°F or 190°C degrees.

Quarter the squash and remove seeds using a spoon.  If the skin is too thick, slice into smaller pieces and remove the seeds and meat.  Place the squash on (lined with aluminum foil) baking dish/pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile coarsely chop the onions and garlic, separately.   

In a dutch oven or large saucepan set on the stovetop on medium heat, add olive oil and onion.  Sauté the onion in olive oil for 4 minutes.  (If the onions are browning too quickly, reduce the heat.)  Stir in garlic, sage leaves, herbs and a pinch of salt.  (Note about sage leaves, dried sage leaves are hard to find here in Germany so either use fresh, if available, or dried chopped sage leaves.)

Remove squash from the oven and scoop the flesh from the skin and add it to the dutch oven.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for a 4 minutes to meld the flavors into the squash.  Add water to the dutch oven and make sure liquid covers all of the squash.  If not, add more water. 

Increase heat to bring the liquid to boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Remove the sage leaves, if using whole leaves.  Using an immersion blender puree the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer it to a regular blender or food processor and blend.

If the soup is too thick, stir in water.  Once blended, stir in smoked paprika. Taste and adjust salt and black pepper, if necessary.

Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with cream.

I think everyone enjoyed the soup.  Suffice it to say, I loved teaching them and they enjoyed cooking new dishes.  They said their biggest takeaway from class was adding sufficient salt to foods.  If there’s one tip I share with people about cooking, it’s “salt as much as you think the food needs and then a little more.”  

This was teaching on a personal level and although I’ve enjoyed teaching strangers in the past, having friends in the room, laughing and candidly sharing stories made it more memorable.  And more importantly, having 6 sous chefs in the kitchen is a dream.  

adding bacon or pancetta (browned in a saute pan) to the soup is never a bad idea

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