Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A smashing pumpkin

I thought that being roasted with red onions as an accompaniment to steak was the highest form of pumpkin pleasure until I bunged it in a curry. Pumpkin curries in restaurants have almost exclusively disappointed but, having seen what looked like a good 'un on the last 'F Word', when what were described as culinary pumpkins popped up in Tesco, one found its way into the basket straight away. I overdid the pumpkin here, just by five minutes but enough to make it a wee bit too soft for our taste. Practice makes perfect, and I plan to practise plenty.

Serves 3-4
Two-thirds of a small pumpkin - the rest can be roasted with red onion as an accompaniment to steak ;-)
Two small onions
Two cloves of garlic
Two red chillis
Two stalks of lemon grass
A big chunk of root ginger - about the size of three fingers
Sugar snap peas
Fresh coriander and mint
A lime
One large teaspoon of ground cumin
One large teaspoon of ground coriander
One teaspoon of red curry paste
Two teaspoons of turmeric
Four fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, plus a tin of them
Three quarters of a pint of vegetable stock
A tin of coconut milk
Groundnut oil or ghee for frying

A word of warning right at the start: DO NOT SHAKE the coconut milk.

Peel and clean the pumpkin and chop it into big chunks - the more delicate the flesh, the bigger they'll need to be to stand up to cooking without falling apart. Thumb-sized or larger is what you're after. Heat the oil or ghee - enough to just cover the bottom - in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the onions and add to the pan on a low heat to soften. Finely chop the chillis, peeled ginger and garlic, then remove the outer leaves from the lemon grass and finely slice. For the heat, I left about two-thirds of the seeds from one of the (medium) chillis in there, which made it pleasantly hot without bringing tears to the eyes.
Add the chillis, ginger, garlic and lemon grass to the onions and cook for five minutes or so. Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and paste, and cook for another five to seven minutes, while you get on with peeling, deseeding and roughly chopping the fresh tomatoes. Done? Into the pan with them, then, and let them cook down for a couple of minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes and letting the whole lot bubble away for up to ten minutes - you want the tomatoes to start to make a thick gravy.
Now pour in the hot vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil, then slide in the pumpkin and simmer gently for twenty minutes (possibly twenty five, but thirty is too long). Test the heat after about five minutes and bung in some more chilli seeds if needed. Five minutes before the end, add the sugar snap peas. Finally, stir in just the cream off the coconut milk - I reckon that if you add all of it, the dish will be too watery, hence the warning against shaking the tin - the chopped fresh herbs and the lime juice.

Serve with Yulya's special rice.

I'd take a photograph, only I just ate the last bit for lunch. Even better, the next day.

UPDATE: Yulya has now made this her own, and makes it far better than I did. I'm not complaining.