It’s Sunday afternoon. Pale grey clouds float carelessly across an ice blue sky and evening promises to arrive long before I am ready for it. Today is laundry day and that coincides with a silent afternoon filled with writing. I’ve had roasted Crown Prince pumpkin mingling slowly in a pot with just the right amount of ginger, garlic and onions since this morning. The curry I have made is neither traditional nor part of my family heritage — it is what I often make in anticipation of a very busy week. This is what the perfect Sunday feels like.
- two small red onions . about 200 grams in weight
- a piece of fresh ginger weighing 20 grams
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- a piece of fresh turmeric root weighting 20 grams . or one teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 4-6 curry leaves
- a pinch of fennel seeds
- a pinch of coriander seeds
- one yellow Scotch bonnet pepper . or another spicy pepper of your choice
- 50 ml coconut oil or olive oil if you prefer
- one Crown Prince pumpkin or any local favorite of your choice . about 2 kilo in weight
- one round eggplant. about 400 grams in weight
- one zucchini
- two sweet potatoes . about 500 grams in weight
- Celtic sea salt and black pepper
- two tablespoons of tomato purée
- 250 grams of red lentils
- 400 ml coconut milk
- a handful of fresh coriander
- dried coconut . optional
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cover two flat oven platters with parchment paper. Wash the sweet potatoes and the eggplant. Cut the top off of the pumpkin, creating a lid. Put the pumpkin and its lid on one of the oven platters and sprinkle it generously with sea salt. Bake the pumpkin about 20-30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and sweet. Remove the pumpkin from the oven to cool.
Meanwhile, crush the coriander and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them in half. Lay the cut side down on a cutting board and slice each sweet potato half into even-sized strips. Cut into a into a small even-sized dice. Repeat the process with the eggplant. Spread the diced vegetables evenly over the second oven platter and scatter them with the crushed spices and a generous pinch of sea salt. Bake the eggplant and sweet potatoes until well-done and slightly browned on the edges — about 15-20 minutes. Remove the platter from the oven and set aside.
To make the flavor base for the curry, peel the red onion, garlic cloves, ginger and turmeric root. Cut off the stem of the Scotch Bonnet pepper and remove the seeds. Save all the peels and scraps of these pungent flavor makers and set them aside in a small bowl. Fill a pan with 750 ml water. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and bring the water to a boil. Throw in all the peels, adding the top of the Scotch Bonnet pepper as well. Turn down the heat to a simmer and let the ingredients steep ten minutes. Strain the scraps with a seive and add the curry leaves to the hot liquid. This simple broth will add some extra depth to the curry — and I promise it is worth the extra effort.
While the broth is steeping, return to the the pungent piece of ginger, turmeric, onion, garlic and yellow pepper lying on the cutting board. Chop all the ingredients into a fine paste with a sharp knife or, if you prefer, grind them into a paste with a food processor. Melt the coconut oil on medium heat in a pan large enough to accommodate all the curry ingredients. Pour in the ginger-garlic-pepper-onion paste and cook it low and slow ten to fifteen minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato purée, the red lentils and a good pinch of sea salt to the pot. Pour over the spicy homemade broth to cover the lentils and stir the ingredients well. Turn down the heat to a minimum and let the lentils cook until done, about 30 minutes.
Scoop out the Crown Prince pumpkin flesh and add it to the stewing pot of aromatic flavors. Puree all ingredients with an immersion blender. I like to keep the lentil-pumpkin mixture coarse, but it is equally as good when pureed until velvet smooth. This is strictly personal. Add the coconut milk, along with the roasted sweet potato and eggplant and gently warm the ingredients for fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the flavors mingle. Wait at least one hour and preferably even longer before serving the curry, warmed slowly or baked in the hollow of the Crown Prince pumpkin.
Season the curry with the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to heighten the flavors, if needed. Top off the curry with toasted coconut and fresh coriander leaves — just enough to your liking.
Although strictly speaking, it is not necessary, I like to top off the curry with something raw. If at hand, grate a zucchini into noodles with a julienne grater (a mandoline works as well) Sprinkle the zucchini ribbons over the curry. Serve this curry combination over boiled potatoes or steamed brown rice.
This combination of autumn vegetables is a meal in itself. The only thing I sometime add are some steamed leafy vegetables or a handful of fresh green beans. Top the curry with some yoghurt to contrast the heat of the spices.
This one pot dinner keeps well for a number of days and actually tastes better after resting for a day or two in the fridge.
This recipe is my twist on one of Jamie’s 10 Food Revolution recipes. I gladly contribute to Mr. Oliver’s campaign as super ambassador of the Food Revolution. I too feel that teaching and passing on cooking skills to friends and family makes life not only more meaningful but infinitely more valuable on an emotional level. Read more on this here.