Jamaican comfort food gets things started
“This is kind of like my Jamaican comfort food,” says Craig Wong of his pumpkin soup recipe. “It’s something I love in cold weather – it feels like a big warm hug.”
At Wong’s Dundas West kitchen, Patois, the menu is packed with punchy flavours and he has plenty of fun with presentation, but there’s a little nostalgia at the core of every dish. This recent addition to the menu (served in hollowed-out squashes, natch) is no different.
“My grandmother passed away one month into operations at Patois, so she never got a chance to come in and eat dinner,” he says. “I always regretted not urging her to come in, thinking she always had time. This is something she used to cook, but it’s kind of a modern interpretation of what she used to do.
“Jamaican dumplings tend to be really big and thick, and I wanted to do something a little lighter, a little more modernized, with a French technique, a European feel, but still using the Jamaican influence with its big, robust flavours.”
Another change Wong made: “She used to use one little piece of salt beef, and I always tried to find that one piece.”
With two pounds of salt beef in this version, you definitely won’t need to hunt for it.
Soak salt beef in water for 8 to 10 hours, changing water twice.
Cut off the tops of the squash to form “lids.” Scrape out the seeds. Roast squash at 325°F until soft and cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Scrape out flesh.
Dice onions and garlic and sweat in a pot until onions are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add allspice, black pepper and Scotch bonnet.
Add beef, thyme and water.
Cook on low until beef is tender (about 3 hours).
Meanwhile, mix flour, water and salt and form tiny dumplings (half the size of ping-pong balls). Blanch in salted water until cooked, roughly four minutes. Reserve.
Remove the beef from the pot and let it cool so you can shred the meat. Remove thyme from pot.
Add ¾ of the scraped squash flesh to the liquid and blend the soup until smooth. Add in remainder of squash flesh and season with salt to taste.
Re-blanch the dumplings to reheat in clean water. Ladle into squash “bowls”. Add beef and dumplings to each bowl. Drizzle with coconut milk, and top with cilantro.