Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pumpkin and Red Kuri Squash Indian Chicken Curry

Canned pumpkin, a whole baked squash, and an easy sweet curry powder, make this recipe a healthy crowd-pleaser.

1 whole red kuri squash
2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground mace
1 tsp.  whole cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp. whole anise seeds
vegetable oil to coat the pan
2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
1 yellow onion
2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into bite-size chunks
1 cup coconut milk
15 oz. (1 can) 100% pure pumpkin (like Libby's)

You'll Also Need:
a spice grinder


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Poke the squash in several places with a fork. Bake for about 50 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Remove the peel and seeds. Dice into chunks.

2. Place all of the spices (cumin, salt, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, cloves, and anise) into a spice grinder and pulse until powdered.

3. Dice up the onion. Coat a deep skillet in oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion and ginger-garlic paste to the skillet. Saute for about 3 minutes or until onion is lightly browned.

 4. Stir in the spice mixture. Continue stirring for 2 minutes.

5. Add the chicken thighs, coconut milk, canned pumpkin, and squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over Basmati Rice that's been cooked in stock and saffron for extra flavor.

Serves 4-6.

The AHH Factor: I subscribe to Farm Fresh to You produce delivery service for several reasons. I like to support local farmers, eating organic has always sounded like a good idea, and I just hate searching for items at the grocery store. (Just this morning, it took me 20 minutes to find the pancake mix. Why isn't it with the cake mixes? In my mind, it's a dessert, not a true breakfast item. It shouldn't be next to the oatmeal.)

But the most exciting reason I subscribe to the service is something that I hadn't thought about until a few boxes in: Farm Fresh sends me produce that I've never heard of before...and I love that! When I shop at the farmers' market, I get all of the other benefits -- but I always play it safe and buy produce that I recognize. (Well, except for the time when I thought I was buying apples, and, as it turned out, they were yellow plums. Now that was an interesting first bite.)

It's like my own personal Iron Chef. "Sree, you have one weekend to use all of the items in this box. If you succeed, you enjoy organic deliciousness. If you fail, you will feel really bad throwing food away." Would you believe I'd never cooked with leeks or fennel until they showed up in my produce box? That shit looks intimidating in the grocery store!
So,  when this adorable red kuri squash showed up recently, I challenged myself to figure out a way to use it. I'd been wanting to create a pumpkin curry ever since I tried one at Mahan Indian Restaurant in Alhambra, and I reasoned a squash would fit in perfectly as an additional vegetable. If you are braver than I am and aren't afraid of chunking up a raw squash, then you can probably save yourself the first 50 minutes of this recipe and just add the raw chunks into the curry when you add the chicken. It should soften up enough in an hour or two during the simmering. (If you bake it first like I did, it does get mushy by the end, but it tastes great blended in with the pumpkin and I still had a few chunks for texture.)

And if you don't have access to kuri squash, then of course add whatever vegetable you like or leave it out entirely. Luckily, since the sauce base is pumpkin, it's a healthy spin on curry regardless. I'd definitely try the spice blend with the pumpkin and the coconut milk, whatever protein or veggie you choose. I started to get nervous during the simmer-time about whether all of this work was for naught as I threw together the spice blend on the fly, but it was one of the favorite Indian meals that I've made so far. Challenge completed!

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