This ended up being an amalgamation of several different recipes as I couldn’t find any single one to fit the bill. There are a number of dishes I can do without thinking about it and if I want a quick, simple curry, I cheat and use a prepared curry powder and throw things in. Not so with this one because I had an idea of what I wanted to make but wasn’t sure of how to go about it. I wanted smooth creaminess and I wanted spice but just enough so that I could still taste the different ingredients but neither did I want a long list of different spices. Too many, and you end up with a sense of ‘spice’, rather than flavour. I wanted to be able to pick out a different flavour with each mouthful. I also wanted tomato in some form or another but I didn’t want it to be the overriding flavour.
Having the courage to pick apart someone else’s recipe to make it your own, is a confidence born of many years’ experience. Eating my mum’s cooking growing up was bound to make at least one good cook out of the three of us, if only to ensure that we didn’t starve.
Never be afraid to swap ingredients around or substitute one thing for another. For example, sweet potato is a great alternative to butternut squash, and at a push, even swede could be used (tho this is better steamed for a while as it is a much firmer vegetable). One of the recipes used peanut butter but peanuts have quite a distinct flavour and I wanted something a little less blatant so swapped it for smooth cashew nut butter.
One of the recipes suggested tamarind paste. It’s an unusual ingredient and unless you’re going to use it often, it can turn out a little pricey. After a quick search around, I found an alternative that used dates to achieve a paste similar to tamarind but I didn’t have any dates in so I made something up using soft, dried figs! The idea of the dates, or figs, is to counter some of the bitter sharpness in some of the ingredients used and though, I don’t normally sweeten my savoury food, I felt that it would work well for what I wanted to achieve.
Lastly, horror of horrors, I had run out of coconut milk! I had already hit my budget for the week so desperately searched my mind for alternatives, whilst doing the same to my cupboards, when I came across half a packet of shredded (desiccated) coconut. Can I make coconut milk from shredded coconut? Seems I can thank goodness! And it couldn’t be simpler. Check out Wellness Mama for details.
For the paste
- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
- Grated rind of half a lime and the juice
- 3 figs, chopped
- A little water if necessary
For the curry
- 1 small butternut squash or half a large
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 bruised lemongrass stalk or peel of ½ a lemon
- 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste)
- 1/2 can coconut milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon cashew butter
- Small bag of washed spinach (approx. 250g)
- A handful of cashews
- lime wedges to serve
- Chop the butternut squash into chunky pieces and roast using 2 of the 3 tablespoons of oil, at 220°C for 20-25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the paste, minus the water, into a liquidiser or processor or grinder (I use my coffee bean grinder) and mash into a paste. If it’s a little too thick to grind, add a dribble of water.
- Heat the remaining oil and gently fry the onions until opaque. Add the ginger, the garlic and the lemongrass (or lemon peel) and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the cardamom pods, turmeric, coriander, cumin and red chilli flakes and fry for a further minute.
- Add the paste and mix thoroughly.
- Stir in the coconut milk and let simmer for 5 minutes. The resulting sauce should be quite thick. If it’s not, simmer until it is.
- Add the cooked butternut squash and the spinach to the sauce, stir and put a lid on for 2-3 minutes, keeping the heat low. Remove from the heat and stir gently until the spinach has just about wilted.
- Gently dry fry the cashew nuts until golden and sprinkle on top just before serving
Serve with a mix of brown rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat and lime wedges