Just for a moment, we thought Spring had sprung, but we’re back in front of the fire after being lulled into a false sense of security by a couple of days of warm sunshine. Now we are back to rain and hailstones with winds from Russia and Bulgaria, which are by no means tropical even before they’ve swept down over our very snowy mountains.
I can’t believe it is now a year since I started writing this blog. My first post was for pesto, using up the basil from our beautiful basil plant, which was amazingly bushy last January. The bush is still going, but the poor thing has been nobbled by the rare frost that we had earlier this month. Robin has now moved it into a more sheltered position and it is bravely shooting again, but I think it might be a while before we have enough leaves for pesto.
We are on the last days of our vegan experience – in fact, I think we’ve decided that if we make it as far as this coming weekend, that will have been a pretty good effort. We had a bit of a wobble in the middle, but the last week or two have actually been easier than the beginning.
I’m still working my way through the huge lump of pumpkin I bought in the market two Fridays ago. It is languishing in the fridge and still in amazingly pristine condition. Last night, I made a pumpkin, courgette and spinach curry – I was a bit heavy-handed with the chilli and it was slightly too lively even for me, so I decided to cool things down with some coconut milk. This proved to be inspired and I think it’s now my favourite favourite.
Of course, if you are not following a vegan diet, this would be delicious made with chicken or prawns. I served mine with saffron rice and some rather un-Asian veggies, as I was feeling the need for ‘proper’ greens after a few too many salads.
The list of ingredients looks long, but a lot of them are just ground spices – if you are missing one or two of them, just improvise, it will still be delicious. I usually mix at least twice as much as I need, then I’ve got a ready-mix for when I next fancy a curry. It is important to cook the spices in the oil before adding the liquid – this helps to release their natural oils and increases the flavour. The lime gives the curry quite a sour note – I usually add a tablespoon of spicy mango chutney, which helps to balance this, but I will leave it to you to decide.
Pumpkin & spinach coconut curry
Serves 4 – 5
For the spice mix:
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked or sweet)
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder, depending on how spicy you like things
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala (I used Madras)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fenugreek powder (optional)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the curry:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
A large knob of ginger (mine was about 4cm), peeled and sliced into thin match sticks (or grate if you prefer)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 red or green chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
2 long red peppers or 1 large red bell pepper
250ml vegetable stock or water
Half of a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes or about 200ml passata (or whiz up some fresh tomatoes)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
200ml coconut milk (about half of a tin – freeze the rest)
A large handful of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves separated
About 300g each of pumpkin or butternut squash and courgettes
2 teaspoons brown sugar or a generous tablespoon of mango chutney
1 medium tomato, diced into small pieces
A couple of generous handfuls of spinach, washed and shredded
Put all the ingredients for the spice mix into a bowl and stir until well combined (or put in a jam jar and shake everything up).
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or saute pan and add the onion and ginger.
Cook over a medium heat until the onions are completely soft and a deep golden brown.
Add the red peppers, fresh chilli and garlic, together with the whole cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a little longer, making sure that the garlic doesn’t start to burn.
Stir in the ground spices and cook for a minute or two – they should start to turn a golden brown, but make sure they don’t burn.
Add the stock (or water), together with the tinned tomatoes and lime zest and juice. Finely chop the stalks of the coriander (save the leaves for later) and add to the mix. Bring to a simmer, then pour in the coconut milk.
Cut the pumpkin and courgettes into bite sized pieces and add to the pan. Season with a little salt.
Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for about 25 minutes. Taste the curry at this point – if the flavour is a little too sharp, add the sugar or mango chutney. Finally, stir in the fresh tomato and the spinach and cook for another minute or two until the spinach has completely wilted.
Take the curry off the heat and stir in the coriander leaves.
I like this served with saffron rice, but Robin secretly prefers his spooned over a baked potato – I’ll leave it to you to decide.