How does a warm and creamy squash curry sound to you right now? Good, right?! This vegan curry is made with rich coconut milk and infused with enough spices to make your tongue tingle. It's the kind of dish that makes you look forward to dinner all day long.
Most of the ingredients are readily available in urban areas. Some of you may already have all this stuff in your kitchens. The next time you've got a big squash sitting on your counter staring you in the face, go ahead and cook up this curry. Serve it over brown basmati rice along with sautéed greens or cabbage and you've got a complete and healthy meal.
I have to give credit to James Oseland and his wonderful book, Cradle of Flavor. Though there aren't any recipes in it for Squash Curry, I was thumbing through it when I was inspired to create this recipe.
This curry intrigued me first for the use of butternut squash (my favorite!) and second for the fact that it is a hearty, yet pretty darn healthy, vegan dish. Perfect for a chilly winter afternoon.
It's worth going to the trouble of toasting and grinding your own spices, I think. The aromas and flavors of freshly-ground spices really punch up the whole dish. I also found that the jalapeño alone made this curry plenty hot for my taste, but if you'd like even more spicy heat, add the cayenne and dried red peppers. -Emma
Butternut Squash & Coconut Curry
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 medium (roughly 2 1/2 pound) butternut squash
3 tablespoons cooking oil, such as grapeseed or peanut oil
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño chile, chopped (seeds optional, for extra heat)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional, for extra heat)
2 small, dried red chilies (optional, for extra heat)
1 Balinese Long Pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice, to serve
In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds. Once cool, grind the toasted spices in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
Meanwhile, peel and dice the squash into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 5-6 cups of squash.
Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the chile, turmeric, cayenne (if using), small dried red chiles (if using), Balinese Long Pepper (if using), and the ground toasted spices. Stir to release fragrance, cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Add the squash, tamarind paste, coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 45 minutes until squash is tender and just beginning to break down. The squash will thicken the curry as it cooks down. If you want an extra-thick and creamy curry, puree a cup or two of the squash with an immersion blender and mix it back into the curry.
Garnish each plate with sprigs of cilantro and serve with cooked rice.
Originally published 12/12/06.
(Image: Emma Christensen)