This hearty soup uses Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) with other Asian flavours such as miso and gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes). I also use vegetarian dashi broth, made from dashi bags that you can purchase at shops specialising in Asian ingredients. Dashi bags can also be made with ingredients such as katsuo (fermented and dried skipjack tuna); be sure the one you buy for this recipe is vegetarian.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Carefully cut the top off the Japanese pumpkin (kabocha squash) to expose the cavity (which will be used to serve the soup). Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, leaving behind the flesh. Very lightly brush olive oil over the exposed flesh in the cavity and over the entire squash. Place the squash (and the cut-off top) on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out as much flesh as possible from the top of the squash. Scoop out the flesh from the cavity, but don’t make the “wall” of the squash too thin, or it might collapse when you serve the soup; it should be about 8mm (⅜in) thick.
Finely chop the onion and garlic cloves. Cut the carrot into 2cm (⅞in) chunks. Finely mince the ginger. Put the dashi bags in a bowl and add 800ml (3 ¼ cup) of boiling water. Leave to steep for a few minutes, then pull out the dashi bags and squeeze them to extract the liquid before discarding them.
Heat 30ml of cooking oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook over a low flame until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring often. Add the curry powder, gochugaru and ginger, stir constantly for about 30 seconds, then mix in the carrot and miso. Add the dashi liquid and the pumpkin (kabocha) flesh, then season to taste with salt. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the carrot is tender.
Using a food processor, blender or immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth, then taste for seasonings and correct, if necessary. If the soup is too thick, stir in more dashi broth (or water).
While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnishes. Very thinly slice the garlic then put it into a small pan with the olive oil. Place over a low flame and cook until the garlic is pale-medium golden, then turn off the flame. Put the pumpkin seeds in a skillet and drizzle with about 5ml (1tsp) of the oil used to cook the garlic. Stir to coat the pumpkin seeds with the garlic oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt, black pepper and a pinch of gochugaru. Cook over a low flame, stirring constantly, until the pumpkin seeds smell toasted.
If needed, re-heat the soup until simmering, then pour it into the hollowed-out pumpkin (kabocha) shell before serving. Ladle the soup into bowls then drizzle some garlic oil over each portion and scatter the fried garlic and toasted pumpkin seeds on top.