It’s October and the fall season is upon us. Of course, October also means Halloween and that means pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin, and more pumpkin.

Even here in Florida, our pumpkin patches are popping up all over. There will be Jack-o’-lanterns on porches, windowsills and front lawns.

As my creative juices begin to flow, resembling of comfort foods impinge my memory. The pumpkin is versatile as you can make both savory and sweet dishes. You can boil them, and smash and add a little butter with some herbs. You can make pumpkin hash with peppers and onions. You certainly can’t mention the pumpkin and not speak of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheese cake, pumpkin biscuits and need I dare say, pumpkin soup.

Speaking of soup, a fan favorite comes to mind, the perfect one pot dish. It sings fall, it says get into my belly. It is Chef Irie’s Coconut Pumpkin rum soup. A blend of spices, heat, rum and coconut milk that allows your mouth to water, it just screams fall comfort. This soups speaks of my Caribbean roots via the Calabaza squash.

There are many varieties of pumpkins found all over the world. There are small, large, heavy weights and even world record size (2,032 pounds, Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park – Morgan Hill, Ca.). The afore mentioned Calabaza Squash also known as the Caribbean pumpkin can be found in many a Caribbean pots for soups & stews, the Pumpkin Choka – a smashed pumpkin side dish found in Trinidad or as a condiment addition to many a Roti wraps. The Calabaza is noticeably different from its American counterpart that we normally see during the fall months — the Jack-O’-Lantern, Aladdin variety — both in its texture, taste and sexy green and white striations of the outerwear.

A few things to keep in mind when you go pumpkin shopping: Always buy a pumpkin with a stem, they will keep longer. Don’t refrigerate the pumpkin, especially if it’s getting turned into a ghoulish lawn caricature. The moisture causes rapid deterioration. Get a pumpkin that doesn’t have any crazy blemishes, cracks or soft spots. Select a pumpkin with a nice deep orange suit. It just has to be sexy.

Now if you are from the Caribbean and reading this, you might just revert to what grandma said about whole pumpkins. When you hold it up and tap it with your fingers and a nice deep hollow sound comes back to you it might just bring a smile. That would signify a nice dry pumpkin that doesn’t have too much water, one that’s going to make that mash pumpkin or beef soup delish. And if you cut into that pumpkin and you see that fabulous deep orange color, the beef soup for Saturday’s dinner will be on Fiyah!

You will definitely love this soup when you get to make it in your kitchen. This is a healthy meal to have seeing that pumpkins are very low in calorie with no saturated fats and cholesterol. They also are a storehouse of many antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, and E.

So as we head into the holiday season, don’t just think lawn jockey or pie filler. Think sumptuous velvety coconut pumpkin rum soup as it glides across your palette, dripping from the corners of your mouth. Have it with a salad or some good old rustic bread. Be creative with the pumpkin this year. Till next time, make it Food on Fiyah!!!

 Coconut pumpkin rum soup

4 Tb olive oil

½ cp chopped onions

2 Tb finely diced garlic

¼ cp diced green pepper

6 -8 cps pumpkin, diced (Calabaza)

½ cp brown sugar

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tb ground ginger

1 ½ cp dark rum (Bacardi Anjeo or Gooslings)

1 Tb chopped thyme leaves

4 cp chicken or vegetable stock

1 can coconut milk

Salt & pepper to taste


Sauté onions and garlic for about 2 minutes.

Add the next six ingredients and sauté until the sugar just starts to caramelize then add the rum. Let cook for another 2 minutes.

Add stock and cook for about 10 minutes then remove from the heat and puree until smooth using a hand blender.

Return to heat and add the coconut milk. Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes then check for seasoning.

Spiced Pumpkin

3 Tb vegetable oil, canola or olive oil

¼ cp diced red onions

1 Tb chopped garlic

1 tsp chopped ginger

¼ cp red & green pepper, diced

½ tsp chopped scotch Bonnet pepper

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander

1cp diced tomatoes

4 cp pumpkin, medium diced

1 tsp thyme leaves

1 tsp salt

3 Tb coconut cream

½ cp chopped cilantro

1 ½ tsp salt & pepper

Cilantro sprigs as garnish


In Medium sauce pot, add about 6 cups water with the salt, let come to a boil then add the pumpkin. Cook until pumpkin is just cooked through and remove from water and drain.

In large sauté pan, add oil on medium heat and onion, garlic, ginger and saute for about I minute. Add the peppers, season then sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin and tomatoes then toss. Add the spice and thyme and toss well then add the coconut cream along with half the chopped cilantro. Cook for another 5 minutes, add remaining chopped cilantro and check seasoning with salt and pepper then remove from heat.

Plate on a platter to serve.