Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 batch pumpkin curry (see recipe here: http://serendibkitchen.com/2020/11/01/pumpkin-curry/)

32 oz. stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 cinnamon stick
2 T lime juice

1/2 – 1 t. additional salt, to taste

Optional garnishes: coconut milk, marigold petals, Sri Lankan-style roasted pumpkin seeds (recipe here: http://serendibkitchen.com/2020/11/01/roasted-pumpkin-seeds-sri-lankan-style/)

1. Make pumpkin curry in a large pot. (I recommend peeling the pumpkin if you plan to use it for soup.)

2. Add stock and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove cinnamon stick and purée until smooth. Optional, but makes it pretty and gives the soup a velvety texture — an immersion blender makes this job much easier than trying to transfer hot soup into a blender safely.

4. Stir in lime juice, taste, add salt if needed.

5. Serve hot, garnished with a swirl of thick coconut milk, edible marigold petals, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Curry

(30-45 minutes, feeds 8)

The orange pumpkins that are so familiar in America don’t actually grow in Sri Lanka, but the same approach used for Sri Lankan ash pumpkins (also known as wintermelon) works well for orange pumpkins too, offering a mild, comforting curry rich in autumn flavor,

Typically in Sri Lanka, you’d leave the pumpkin skin on for cooking, and it can then either be eaten, or removed easily with your fingers. But if you’re eating with a fork instead of your clean hand, that may be a little tricky to manage — feel free to peel your pumpkin if you like.

One key to this curry is to cut the pumpkin into different sized chunks, so that the smaller pumpkin pieces dissolve into a curry sauce, and the larger ones stay in soft pieces.

I used a medium-sized five pound pumpkin for this dish, but you can certainly reduce the quantity — just reduce the onions and other spices roughly proportionately. But one nice aspect of making a big pumpkin curry, is that after you’ve eaten it for a day or two, any leftovers can be put on the stove, some broth added, and cooked down into a lovely soup. The soup also freezes well.

1/4 c. vegetable oil
5 onions, chopped
3-5 T ginger, chopped
5-10 cloves of garlic, chopped
3-5 fresh green or red chilies, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 t. mustard seed
1 1/2 t. cumin seed
1 t. fenugreek seed
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. salt
2 stalks curry leaves (about 18-24 leaves)
1 medium pumpkin, about five pounds, cut into chunks (peeled if you like)
2 c. coconut milk + 2 c. water

pomegranate and pumpkin seeds for garnish, optional

1. Heat oil in a large pot and sauté onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, and spices over medium heat, stirring, until onions are golden-translucent.

2. Add pumpkin, curry leaves, coconut milk and water; bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

3. Simmer uncovered (adding more water if needed) until the largest pieces of pumpkin are soft and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Serve hot with rice or bread, garnished with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.

Luxurious

Chilly outside, but a little tropical sunshine on my plate. I’m cooking mostly vegan food these days, developing recipes for the cookbook, but we’re also still trying to support our local restaurants — we got Thai takeout last night, so there’s a little Thai sausage and chicken satay on the plate, then going clockwise, tempered plantain peel, fresh mango, and spicy plantain curry. Luxurious.

Green Plantain Curry

(45 minutes, serves 4)

Green plantains are starchy and not sweet, more like a vegetable than a fruit — if you’ve had tostones, those are made from green plantains. Expect these fried green plantain bites to be much like potatoes in texture, but with a flavor all their own; I like them simmered in a mild coconut milk curry, with just a hint of green chili.

NOTE: You can save plantain peels to cook them too.

3 green plantains (about 4 c. sliced up)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. turmeric
oil for deep frying
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 green finger hot chilies, chopped
1 stalk curry leaves, about a dozen
1/4 t. fenugreek seeds
1/2 t. salt
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water

1-2 T lime juice

1. Cut plantains in half lengthwise and remove peel with a paring knife. Slice plantains on the diagonal in roughly 1/4″ slices, then toss with 1/2 t. salt and turmeric.

2. Heat oil and fry plantain slices until golden; remove to a plate lined with kitchen towels and set aside.

3. In a separate large sauté pan, heat 1-2 T of the oil and add onion, chilies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, and salt. Sauté about 10 minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent.

4. Add coconut milk and water, then add fried plantains. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer 15 minutes, until curry sauce has thickened. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Spicy Plantain Curry

(30 minutes, serves 4)

Sri Lanka grows a host of plantains and bananas; this type of curry is typically made with a variety known as ash plantain. That’s not easy to find in America, but luckily, plantains generally have become much more available, and they work beautifully in this dish. You can even use very green bananas if you like.

After the first frying stage, the plantains should be just a little bit sweet, and can be eaten straight up if you like as a snack, or added to a plate of rice and curries. But add them to this curry sauce, and the spicy, tangy sauce meets the sweetness of the fried plantain, for what I can only call a taste explosion. In a good way!

NOTE: You can save plantain or banana peels to cook them too.

3 plantains, peeled (about 4 c.) (or very green bananas)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. turmeric
oil for deep frying
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 green finger hot chilies, chopped
1 stalk curry leaves, about a dozen
1/4 t. fenugreek seeds
1 t. cayenne (or less, adjust to taste)
1/2 t. Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. coconut milk

1-2 T lime juice

1. Slice plantains on the diagonal in roughly 1/4″ slices, then toss with 1/2 t. salt and turmeric.

2. Heat oil and fry plantain slices until golden; remove to a plate lined with kitchen towels and set aside.

3. In a separate large sauté pan, heat 1-2 T of the oil and add onion, chilies, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds. Sauté about 10 minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent.

4. Add cayenne, curry powder, and 1/2 t. salt, and stir a few minutes more, then stir in coconut milk.

5. Add fried plantain and lime juice; stir gently to combine. Turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes; the plantains will absorb much of the sauce. Serve hot with rice or bread.

Bottle Gourd (or Cucumber) and Spinach Curry

Bottle gourds are one of the original immigrating foods, their seeds drifting across the ocean and making their way from Africa around the world to North America, South America, and Asia, over 10,000 years ago. Amazing!

Because bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) is also called calabash, they’re sometimes confused with the hard, hollow fruits of the unrelated calabash tree (Crescentia cujete).

Bottle gourd flesh is mild, very similar to cucumbers, but a little sweeter. Young seeds and bottle gourd skin are also edible, so you might want to save those for other dishes. But for this curry, you’ll be working with the flesh of the vegetable.

This is a simple curry on its own (lots of spices, but very few steps!), and can be easily varied by adding eggplant, lentils, or in this case, fresh spinach. Bottle gourd also makes a nice stir-fry (varai), or soup.

2 T vegetable oil
3-4 shallots (or red onion), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 stalk curry leaves (about a dozen)
1 green chilli pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 t. cayenne (or to taste)
1/2 t. Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
1 t. salt
4 cups (about 300 grams) bottle gourd (or cucumber), peeled, seeds removed and discarded, and chopped or shredded
2 c. coconut milk
juice of 1/2 – 1 lime (about 1-2 T)

1 bag baby spinach leaves (about 4 oz.), optional

1. Heat oil in a pot, and add onions, garlic, spices, and bottle gourd. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until onions are golden and a little browned.

2. Add coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes, stir in lime juice, then add spinach if using, and simmer 5-10 minutes more. Serve hot, with rice or bread.

Last Night’s Dinner

Chicken thighs rubbed with oil, salt, and roasted Sri Lankan curry powder, grilled on the stovetop grill pan, then added to a warm baguette slathered with butter, along with my pickled cucumber and carrot, for a Vietnamese banh mi-style sandwich. Delicious, though I think it’d be even better with some avocado slices. Next time.

Pickled cucumber-carrot recipe can be found here.

Green Tomato and Lentil Curry

(45 minutes, serves 4 as entree, 8 as a side)

Green tomatoes are a lovely end-of-summer curry on their own, beautifully tangy, but add some lentils and you have a complete and nutritious meal. It’s perfect with a little rice or bread, or just on its own. In Sri Lanka, earthy red lentils (masoor dal) are most common, and have the advantage of cooking in half the time of most lentils; you could certainly use them in this dish. But I like split mung lentils here; they have a mild, sweet flavor.

Dal:
1 cup split mung lentils (moong dal or payatham paruppu)
½ tsp turmeric
cinnamon stick
1 dried red chili, broken into pieces
1 c. coconut milk (optional; you can cook in water if preferred)
1 c. water (plus more as needed)

1/2 t. salt

Green Tomato Curry:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 t. vegetable oil
1 t. black mustard seeds
1 t. cumin seed
1 t. fenugreek seeds
1 stalk curry leaves (about a dozen)
5 medium green tomatoes, chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 t. salt

chopped cilantro to garnish

1. Add 1 c. split mung lentils to a saucepan (with a lid). Add turmeric, cinnamon stick, chili, coconut milk, water, and 1/2 t. salt. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn to medium-low and continue cooking until the lentils are very tender and soft, about 40 minutes. (This can be sped up in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.) Check periodically and add more water if needed to keep lentils from sticking to the pan. (If they do start to stick, just scrape them up — as long as they don’t actually start to burn, they should be fine.)

2. In a separate pot, sauté onion in oil with mustard seed, cumin seed, feungreek seeds, and curry leaves, until onions are golden-translucent.

3. Stir in chopped green tomatoes, cover and turn heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes.

4. Add the cooked dal to the tomatoes, along with any remaining cooking water. Let the tomatoes and dal come to a boil. Taste, and adjust seasonings to taste — you might add a little more salt, or some lime juice, or more coconut milk.

5. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off heat and add chopped cilantro to garnish.

Eggplant Sambol / Kattharikai Sambol

(1 hour prep, 20 minutes cooking, serves 8)

My vegetarian friends are particularly fond of this dish. It offers a bright note, with its raw onion and lime juice, that wakes up a plate of rice and curry.

1 eggplant
1 rounded tsp salt
1 rounded tsp turmeric
oil for deep frying
3 fresh green chilies, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
lime juice

1/4 cup coconut milk, optional

1. Cut eggplant into quarters lengthwise and then slice thinly. Rub with salt and turmeric, spread on a few layers of paper towels and leave at least 1 hour. Bitter water will rise to the surface of the eggplant; blot that water with more paper towels. This will make for much tastier eggplant.

2. Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry eggplant slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift out with Chinese spider (mesh metal spoon) and put in a dry bowl.

3. Mix with remaining ingredients; serve warm.

Vegetables at Dinner

School lunch today — apple-cheddar crescent rolls + slices of apple. Vegetables at dinner, really. 🙂

I admit, I use Pillsbury crescent rolls to make these, because while I *can* and *have* laminated dough for croissants, I definitely don’t have the time during the school week! So these aren’t fancy, but the kids adore them.

Slice apples and roll up each crescent roll with a slice of apple and some grated cheddar, sprinkle more cheddar on top, bake at 350 about 12 minutes or so.