The beauty of this is it’s very quick to make, and actually very simple despite having quite a few ingredients. It’s also rather unusual, and probably different to any curry you’ve made before.
I don’t think I’ve ever had pumpkin before, a friend of mine told me the other day. I was deeply saddened by this news. For me, autumn isn’t autumn without a pumpkin in the kitchen. Not just in the kitchen, actually, I love the displays of pumpkins that appear at this time of year, and how a single pumpkin can form the basis of so many delicious meals.
I think there’s only one way to cook a pumpkin: roast it. Drizzled with a little oil and given some assertive seasoning (warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and paprika work well), cubes or wedges of pumpkin become fudgy and marshmallow-like in the centre, gorgeously sweet, while their outsides crisp up, salty and caramelized. Then you can use them in a huge variety of ways: in a salad with some pecans and blue or goats cheese; stirred into a risotto with lashings of Parmesan and grated nutmeg; stuffed inside delicate ravioli, to be drizzled with a sage butter sauce; to enrich a meaty stew; mashed and fluffed up to go with sticky roast sausages , they are one of the most versatile autumn vegetables.
Inspired by a recipe by Reza Mahammad, in his wonderful book Rezas Indian Spice: Eastern Recipes for Western Cooks, I decided to give my pumpkin a little south Indian twist. Pumpkin (or squash) works wonderfully in curries. The base flavours of this dish are coconut, cashew nuts, mustard and cumin seeds, chilli, turmeric, and dried melon seeds, which you can track down at any good Asian grocer (but which can be substituted with more cashews if they prove elusive). This gives a gorgeous light, nutty curry paste, to which you add a generous amount of buttermilk to form a deliciously creamy sauce, rich with nuggets of cashew and coconut and fragrant with warm spice and a hint of chilli. Then in goes some roasted pumpkin, to soften a little and give a delicious sweetness to the mix.
In the spirit of autumnal cooking, I gave this curry a hit of green with some beans and wonderful Swiss chard. If you’ve never cooked with chard before, buy some of those gorgeous rainbow stalks while you can. It cooks in a similar way to spinach, and gives a fresh green crunch to the curry. All the ingredients for this can be bought at an Asian grocer or supermarket, but I’ve listed substitutions just in case you don’t have one nearby.
here's what you'll need...
- 35g cashew nuts
- 30g dried melon seeds (or substitute with more cashews)
- 1kg pumpkin or squash, peel and seeds removed
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 35g fresh grated or desiccated coconut
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- 750ml buttermilk
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp light sesame oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 dried red chilli (or more, depending on how hot you like it)
- 15 curry leaves (fresh if possible; dried will do)
- 200g green beans, topped and tailed and cut in half
- 300g Swiss chard, stalks cut into 1 inch lengths, leaves shredded
- Coriander and lime wedges, to serve