A few weeks before going on the trip, my good friend Rebekah (of Honeysuckle Life) and I decided to plan a little weekend of designing, cooking, styling and photographing under the theme of a Japanese Fall Feast. I used the trip to Japan as my inspiration by tasting different dishes and flavours over there and coming up with four recipes. (See the links to Rebekah's beautifully designed creations and tutorials at the bottom of this post.)
Two of our many trips between towns and villages in the country side of Japan included a stop in a small town called Nakatsugawa. I soon discovered that this town is actually famous world wide for its sweet chestnut delicacies called kurikinton. These sweet chestnut dumplings come in many varieties, and are individually wrapped in some adorable mini parcels. I just could not resist and bought my very own kurikinton in its cute packaging (see it here). It was delicious, soft and the chestnut flavour was really delicate (I somehow thought the texture was similar to the one of Spanish soft turrón).
As much as I really enjoyed eating this kurikinton, I usually prefer chestnuts in a savoury dish as I often find it too rich in desserts. So, for this first Japanese Fall Feast recipe, I came up with a butternut squash and chestnut miso soup. It is smooth and delicate, the sweetness of the butternut and chestnuts nicely balanced with the saltiness of the white miso paste. And as much as this is a delicious autumnal recipe, it will also be quite enjoyable all Winter long!
Ingredients (serves 6 to 8 people)
1.2 kilos butternut squash (peeled, deseeded, cut in cubes)
6 garlic cloves (peeled)
4 tablespoons light olive oil
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons white miso paste (gluten free)
1.2 litres hot vegetable stock (gluten free)
400g chestnuts (precooked; I bought those vacuum packed)
To serve (optional): sesame seeds and thin nori strips (sheet of thin seaweed).
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Place the butternut squash cubes and garlic cloves on a large baking tray. Toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place the dish on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender (check with a skewer). Set aside.
2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat. Add the ginger and shallot and cook until it has softened. Add one litre of the vegetable stock and the white miso paste. Stir well until the miso has dissolved.
Add the pieces of roasted butternut squash and the chestnuts. Stir well, turn the heat down a bit and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. When the soup is cooked, remove two ladles worth of stock and keep aside in a bowl. Puree the soup with a blender (I use a hand held one) until smooth. If you like a thick soup, leave as it is. If you prefer it thinner, stir in some of the stock set aside
Serve the soup with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and thin strips of nori.
Bon appétit! Or itadakimasu (I hope I got this right...)!
Raw-Edge Sashiko Embroidered Table Runner
Sashiko Embroidered Book Page
Coffee-dyed Sashiko Embroidered Napkin