During Navratri in India, which is usually in the autumn, this is one of the several vegetarian dishes that people reach out for to make it through the nine days of abstinence and fasting. In the UK, too, as autumn sets in and pumpkin is plentiful, the spices and coconut combine to make a delightful comfort meal.
1kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and
seeds discarded, diced into 4cm cubes
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
2 green chillies, slit lengthways
15 curry leaves
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
8-10 black peppercorns
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
200ml coconut milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1. Place the pumpkin in a pot with the cinnamon stick, green chillies, 10 curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, sugar, salt, red chilli powder and 400ml of water. Bring to the boil, then cook, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes until the pumpkin becomes tender, but not mushy. You should be able to pierce the pumpkin with the tip of a knife or skewer, but it should not fall apart.
2. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, grind together the mustard seeds, peppercorns and 2 tbsp of the desiccated coconut with the coconut milk. Pour this into the boiled pumpkin and allow it to simmer for a few minutes until the gravy thickens slightly. Taste for salt and turn off the heat.
3. In a separate small frying pan, heat the oil until smoking, then add the remaining curry leaves. As they turn crisp after about 30 seconds or so, add the chopped onion and fry for 3-4 minutes on a high heat until they turn pink. Add the remaining desiccated coconut and fry until crisp and golden in colour. Sprinkle on top of your curry as a garnish and serve with rice.