There has been no time for cooking these last two months. Dinner has consisted mostly of Grand Chicken Ranch burgers from McDonald’s (the three lettuce leaves, slice of tomato and single onion ring constituting my 5-a-day as far as I am concerned) or toast. So it’s been rather nice to have someone to cook for and have a bit of time to get into the kitchen again. Even if that kitchen is a desk and toaster oven in a tiny Chinese hotel room, and finding ingredients for a specific recipe could mean a three hour round trip to the Avo Lady. If you’re in Shanghai, you can find lemon grass here (and only here, as far as I have been able to tell).
This is one of my all-time favourite recipes. The extremely obliging people at Woodall Country House & Spa in the Sundays River Valley were kind enough to pass the recipe along after my book club spent a pampered weekend there a few years ago, reading nothing but wine labels and enjoying their exceptional cuisine and warm hospitality. It is dead easy and very, very good. The butternut blends to a velvety, smooth soup without the need for straining and the Thai flavours turn what would ordinarily be standard weekday fare into something a little special.
2 cloves garlic
3 small chillies (or to taste), chopped
20ml lemon grass, minced
2 chicken stock cubes (or tubs, or sachets, depending on your budget) dissolved in 750ml water
500g butternut (or pumpkin), diced
400ml coconut cream
250g cooked prawns (I like to grill whole prawns and then deglaze the oven dish with the water I need to use for the stock. I also prefer whole prawns in the soup, even if it’s a bit messy.)
1) Heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic, onions, chillies & lemon grass. Cook until the onions are soft.
2) Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the butternut and simmer for ten minutes until soft.
3) Blend. (With a blender, if “blend” isn’t clear enough.)
4) Stir in the coconut cream and heat through.
5) Add the prawns and serve. Alternatively pour the soup into bowls and top with the prawns.