Quickies Cocktail Challenge Update : I am pleased to announce that we've now received  11  great entries! Thank you very much and please, keep them coming guys. Send in as many entries as you like,  just remember to get them in by midnight of September 27 2010 (ET)  - we're looking forward to shouting out the winner and showcasing a fantastic line up of entries on September 28 2010 (ET)  !! What's your motivation? A gorgeous cookbook! (take a detailed peek here) And now for today's post....

I have fallen. Hard. Long have I fought the attraction, treading around the periphery, taking care not to fall into the abyss, like the moth would, not to singe its wings in the flame that draws it so irresistably. No, my husband doesn't know, nor does he need to; it's not another man. It's a fruit.

I have fallen utterly and irretrievably in love with the coconut. For years and years, haunted by bad press the much maligned coconut suffered, as a result of apparently blinkered medical research done on hydrogenated tropical oils, in the 60s, I used low fat milk as a substitute.  Even as I lusted after it, I actually believed that anything beyond a tablespoon of coconut milk would cause me to drop dead from arterial clogging, or a calcified heart; with my luck, both.

There's no getting away from the coconut in the tropics, but boy, did I try! I drank the sweet, refreshing, innocent juice, each chance I got, like a parched dessert traveller, sometimes I indulged in a stolen and guilt laden bite of coconut candy, or coconut laced Nyonya cakes. It was a misery of dipping my toe in the pool but never really giving in to the desire to drown my pulut hitam in unbridled lashings of thick, creamy, richly fragrant coconut milk.

is cinderella missing her wheels??

Little did I know coconut was not the bad guy, scientists who make our food unrecognisable are. The coconut is truly wondrous; providing food, fuel, building material from its trunk and leaves, fibre and shell for kitchen and table ware, art and craft, rich in health bolstering fatty acids, possibly providing protection from cancer, and even they say, real hope against the HIV virus.

I know better now, but decided somewhere along my blogging journey, that I would not be drawn into preachy diatribes about my convictions, so I will say only this - if nature intended for something to be solid at room temperature, she surely would have spared us the inconvenience of spending ungodly sums of research dollars and nearly as many man hours to make something defy her decree. Accept her bounty, treat it with respect, and enjoy with temperance. Try to change a man and he leaves. Try to change nature, she kicks your butt, hard.

This simple vegetable soup or stew, swims in coconut milk. Oh, the sweetness of liberation! It might sound strange to you, who may be more enlightened, but in many parts of Asia, among the health conscious, coconut milk still suffers from a bad reputation and is avoided like the plague. To this day, my mother eyes my coconut milk laced dishes with undisguised suspicion and something bordering on terror.

I love baby corn and chickpeas, my husband adores pumpkin and squash, so these went into the pot. Use whatever vegetables you like or have. The flavours are simple but the coconut milk makes it almost voluptuous and the lemongrass, always so agreable with coconut, gives it a beautifully grassy and citrusy lift.

Late have I loved thee, sweet coconut, a blessing upon tropical dwellers, but rapturously will I make up for it. Just watch me....

rough and ready, and not too small, unless it's mash your after

15 mins     Cook 15 mins      Serves 4


2 fat stalks lemongrass, trim off tops and bash bottoms soundly
1 onion, peel and slice thinly
2 green chillies, deseed and slice
2 red chillies, deseed and slice
5 cloves garlic, peel and grate finely
1/4 of a cantaloupe sized pumpkin, peel thickly and cut into chunks
200 g (8 - 10 ears) fresh baby corn, discard bottom stumps and slice diagonally
1 can drained chickpeas
200 ml (1 cup) coconut milk
500 ml (2 1/2 cups) water (slightly more if you want a thinner consistency)
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
Fresh coriander (cilantro) or basil to garnish
Lime wedges to garnish


Heat about 4 Tbsp light vegetable oil in a pot and gently cook the lemongrass, onion and chillies until onions are limp and the whole mixture is fragrant.

Add the garlic and continue to cook until lightly browned. Take care that it doesn't burn. Add the pumpkin chunks and stir well. Cover pot, turn heat down to minimum and sweat pumpkin for 5 minutes.

Open lid and stir again. Pumpkin should have deepened in colour. If not, cover pot and sweat again for 3 minutes or so. Add corn and chickpeas and stir for 2 - 3 minutes over medium heat.

Pour in coconut milk and water. Bring to the boil then turn down heat and simmer until pumpkin is tender. Pumpkin cooks quickly so be watchful. Mere minutes make the difference between tender and mush. 

Season to taste then ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkling of cilantro or basil and a lime wedge. Eat as a chunky and voluptuous soup on its own or with crusty bread. If you prefer, serve with rice.