Mashed Squash, Brazilian-style (Purê de Jerimum)


There’s something uniquely appealing about mashed vegetables – which is probably why they’re often atop lists of favorite “comfort foods”. Perhaps it’s because they are a throwback to one’s early childhood when all solid food was mashed, perhaps it’s because of the large amount of fat (dairy, vegetable) that mashed vegetables can carry. Whatever it is, who doesn’t like mashed potatoes, or mashed anything for that matter?

Brazilians are no exception to this rule. Mashed potatoes are universally loved in Brazil, and here they really do pack a caloric punch, as they are laden with generous amounts of cream, butter and even cream cheese. But other vegetables get the mashing treatment here, and Flavors of Brazil would venture to guess that “Miss Runner-Up” in the mashed vegetable popularity contest in Brazil would be mashed pumpkin, or as it’s called in Brazil, purê de jerimum.

The most common name for pumpkins in Brazil is abóbora, but they are also known, particularly in Brazil’s northestern region as jerimum. The etymology of abóbora leads one back to Latin roots, and the word came to Brazil with the Portuguese. Jerimum, however, comes from the Amerindian Tupi-Guarani family of languages, and hearkens back to the vegetable’s New World origins.

Like mashed potatoes, purê de jerimum is basically a mixture of mashed, cooked vegetable plus additional liquid and fat. What distinguishes purê de jerimum is that the additional liquid and fat are in the form of coconut milk, which gives the final dish an unusual and distinctive flavor, with the pumpkin’s inherent sweetness brought out by the coconut milk. The high fat content of coconut milk also ensures the silky mouth-feel that’s so important in mashed veggies.

Try this dish as a new side dish with roasted meats or poultry. It will be a rousing success, we promise. Even if your guests can’t identify the flavor of coconut milk in the dish, they’ll appreciate what it adds to the flavor profile.
RECIPE – Mashed Squash, Brazilian-style (Purê de Jerimum)  
Serves 6

1 lb (450 gr) peeled, seeded and cubed pumpkin or other winter squash
1 1/2 cup (375 ml) canned or bottled coconut milk
salt to taste
chopped cilantro (optional)
Cook the pumpkin in plenty of boiling water until it is very tender. Drain thoroughly in a colander, and then place the cubes in a large mixing bowl.

Using a potato mashed, mash the squash to desired consistency (some people like some texture remaining in the dish, others prefer a smooth puree).

Stir in the coconut milk and mash for a few more seconds until the coconut milk is thoroughly mixed in. Season to taste with salt.

If desired, stir in a handful or two of chopped cilantro.

Put the pumpkin in a decorative serving bowl and serve immediately as a side dish.

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