Nothing had prepared me for the damp, cold winters of Cambridge. I wanted to make this soup not just because it was warming and comforting but because I also got a lot of free pumpkins from the market on my first Halloween in England.

I was surprised to see the number of pumpkins on sale. The shop owner gave me a free one to take home because he was amused that I did not know anything about Halloween! After that, I would buy a pumpkin whenever I saw him. I made a lot of pumpkin soup in the first fall after I moved to England. In Bengal the most-prized pumpkin is a variety with sweet, deep-orange flesh, and this soup does taste best when made with a sweeter variety of pumpkin. The combination of pumpkin and coconut works beautifully with the flavors of fennel seeds and dried red chiles. 

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. In quick succession add the broken dried chiles, fennel seeds and star anise, followed by the onion, ginger and garlic, then cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, and add enough warm water to cover, along with the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15–20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.

Use a hand blender to blend the contents of the pot until smooth.

Put the pot back over low heat to warm through. Stir in the coconut milk, then taste for seasoning, adding sugar and more salt to suit your taste.

Serve in bowls, with some coconut cream swirled on top of the soup.

Reprinted with permission from
Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul
Asma Khan. 
Interlink Books, 2022.

Asma Khan
Asma Khan is chef and restaurateur of London’s Darjeeling Express, which began as a supper club, then a pop-up, before settling in its permanent location to wide acclaim. Khan’s food is homage to her royal Mughlai ancestry and the busy streets of Calcutta, where she grew up. An all-women team runs the kitchen at Darjeeling Express, which has been featured in Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, The Guardian and numerous others. In 2015 it was named one of the best restaurants in London by the Evening Standard, and in 2017 Eater named it one of its most impressive restaurant newcomers.