The Sweetness of Kuris

I started out with a simple, plant based, one-pan dish using the best of the early fall produce. The beautiful organic Kuri pumpkin that I had purchased at the farmstand would be cooked in a rich and spicy coconut broth with lots of onion and chickpeas. A one-pan dish, indeed, if you do not count the tomato roasting. 

From there I kept on adding. I could not resist the beautiful fresh-picked cauliflower on my counter, what a great addition when roasted in oil, garlic and spices. Some plain boiled rice would offset the richness and convince my husband that he was getting a square meal. The seasoned yogurt and hot sauce is the cherry on top. So, keep it simple, savor the stew as is, or make a full meal of it and enjoy the mix of textures and flavors. Also, I have not given up on the one-meal, one-pan concept. Watch this space!

Kuri pumpkin with its sweet orange flesh is the ideal choice, but you could also use sugar or Long Island cheese pumpkin. Giving plenty of onions a long slow cook in ghee and roasting the tomatoes before pureeing will bring out the sweetness and intensify the flavor. Roasting at a low heat helps to extend the season for those late tomatoes and can even add star power to humdrum supermarket specimens.  

Spice Mix

All these spices should be part of your pantry and not just reserved for making Indian dishes. Always use fresh spices, replacing any that have languished in your pantry since last winter. Cumin and coriander seeds will keep for a couple of years. I only buy the whole seeds and give them a quick toast in a hot pan before grinding in a small electric coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. 

1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. mild curry powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. ground coriander
Mix in a small dish and set aside

Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Slice 1 ½ lbs. of plum tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on a large, oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle with fine sea salt and drizzle over a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Place in a 200-degree oven for two hours. Cool slightly before slipping off the skins, removing the seeds and blending to a coarse puree. They will keep in the fridge for up to five days and can be and frozen for future use.

The Stew

3 Tbsp. ghee or olive oil
2 medium yellow onions diced (2 ½ cups)
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp. fennel seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
Spice mix, as prepared above
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
Small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1 ½ cups roasted and pureed plum tomatoes
(You can substitute canned plum tomatoes in natural juices, plus a tablespoon of tomato paste)
½ cup vegetable stock
1 ½ cups coconut milk
1 small Kuri pumpkin
1 cup of cooked chickpeas, dried or canned
Fine sea salt
Fresh black pepper
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
Handful of fresh coriander sprigs for garnish

Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Cut into quarters and remove skin with a sharp peeler (this variety is fairly easy to peel). Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes. You should have about 1 ½ lbs. of edible flesh. Heat the ghee or oil in large heavy pan and add the onions, bay leaves, half a teaspoon of salt and cook very gently for several minutes until onion softens but does not brown. 

Add the fennel seed, Aleppo pepper and mustard seeds. Stir mixture thoroughly and add the garlic and grate the ginger into the mixture using a micro plane grater. Next, add the spice mix and continue cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the pumpkin.  Keep stirring, making sure the pumpkin is thoroughly coated in the onion spice mixture, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the pieces starts to soften slightly. If the mixture sticks, add a little water to the bottom of the pan.  

Add the vegetable stock, pureed tomatoes, coconut milk and a little more salt. Simmer gently for about five minutes, before adding the chickpeas and simmering for a further ten minutes. The pumpkin should be tender but not mushy. Add a few twists of black pepper, the chopped coriander and salt to taste. Serve with brown rice, spiced cauliflower, hot sauce and seasoned yogurt. Will taste even better the next day.

Spiced Cauliflower

1 medium organic cauliflower
¼ tsp allspice
½ tsp. garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
Fine sea salt
Black pepper

Remove the core and divide the cauliflower into small florets. Crush the garlic and a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar and toss with the oil and spices. Spread onto a heavy baking sheet, season with a little salt and roast in a 365-degree oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven and season with fresh black pepper.

Seasoned Yogurt

Mix one cup plain, whole milk Greek yoghurt with a little milk to thin. Grate half a clove of garlic into the mixture and add a ¼ tsp. fine sea salt. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

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