It’s The Great Pumpkin (Curry)

Pumpkin gets spiced up for the season.
Pumpkin gets spiced up for the season.

We can’t help but get smitten with all things pumpkin at this time of year.

We make no secret, either, of tending to veer to the sweet side, with pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, and even pumpkin lattes (which, of course, has no pumpkin in it at all).

However, the savory flip side shouldn’t be relegated to second fiddle.

Not when it means indulging in something savory and sweet, plus spiced and spicy like “Pumpkin Curry.”

A Sugar Pie pumpkin stars in this dish.
A Sugar Pie pumpkin stars in this dish.

This hearty, warming dish is from “Plant-Based Himalaya” (Red Lightning Books), of which I received a review copy, a new cookbook showcasing vegan recipes from Nepal.

It’s by Babita Shreshtha, who grew up in a remote village in Nepal’s Bara district, helping her grandfather in the kitchen, and in the more metropolitan city of Kathmandu, where she also honed her cooking skills from her mother, a first-generation Nepali-Indian, who worked as a private chef.

Escaping a precarious political situation in Nepal, Shreshtha moved to the United States to study graphic design and photojournalism.

Those talents are on vivid display in this cookbook that boasts color photos galore of ingredients and finished dishes.

There are 38 plant-based recipes, including “Pulau” (vegetable rice), “Maas Dal” (black lentils with turmeric), “Momo” (dumplings filled with cauliflower, zucchini, onion, green chilis, and cilantro), and “Semolina Pudding” (flavored with coconut, raisins, almonds, dates, pistachios, and cashews).

“Pumpkin Curry” is a straightforward one-pot dish. I used Sugar Pie pumpkin, but you could also use kabocha, butternut or any other hard winter squash. If you have trouble cutting up a hard squash, just use the handy-dandy trick of microwaving the whole thing for a couple of minutes until it softens just enough to ease your knife blade into it more easily.

The diced pumpkin gets cooked with cubed potatoes in a pot on the stove, along with fragrant cumin seeds, ginger, and turmeric. For a punch of heat, there’s two green chilies, and 2 dried red chilies. I actually used only one of each, and it was plenty spicy for my palate, so I noted that in the recipe below.

A couple chopped tomatoes are added toward the end to impart a little acidity and sweetness. When everything’s ready, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

It’s a comforting dish to tuck into with the tender, creamy potatoes and pumpkin, but one that also tickles the taste buds with plenty of earthy and invigorating flavors.

Serve with roti or rice, and savor another side of pumpkin during its season to shine.

A plant-based dish full of big flavors.
A plant-based dish full of big flavors.

Pumpkin Curry

(Serves 4)

1 pound of pumpkin

2 medium potatoes

4 small tomatoes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 cloves of garlic

4 slices of ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 to 2 medium fresh green chilies

1 to 2 medium dried red chilies

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems chopped

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and chop them into evenly sized cubes.

Peel the skin off the pumpkin with a knife and cut the flesh into cubes the same size as the potatoes.

Heat a pan on medium and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add cumin seeds and whole dried red chilies. Fry for a few seconds.

Add chopped potatoes, mix well, and cover to cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.

Pound garlic, ginger, and black pepper in a mortar and pestle. Then add to the curry and mix well. Cover again and cook for 2 minutes.

Take the lid off. When the spices start to look golden brown, add cumin powder and turmeric. Stir well and then add pumpkin, finely chopped fresh green chilies, and salt. Add a tablespoon or two of water so the curry won’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Mix and replace the lid for 3 minutes, cooking on medium-low heat.

Open the lid and stir. Cover again and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Let the curry cook nice and slowly. Stir the curry every 2 minutes so it won’t burn on the bottom.

Add chopped tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Close the lid and cook for the final 5 minutes on medium heat.

Garnish with finely chopped cilantro on top. The soft and delicious pumpkin curry is ready to serve.

Adapted from “Plant-Based Himalaya” by Babita Shrestha

More Savory Pumpkin Recipes to Enjoy: Pumpkin Cozy Rolls

And: Pumpkin Carbonara with Paccheri

And: Pumpkin, Mustard, Cream

And: Pumpkin, Pancetta, and Arborio Rice Soup

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