Japanese Winter Squash Curry (1-1.5 Hour Total Cook Time)

Quick Overview: (Makes 4-6 servings for 2 people)

This is a fairly simple curry that I had once at my sister’s house and I decided I immediately needed to try remaking it myself.  I’m generally not a fan of pumpkin or squash and despite that I thought this curry was delicious.

Overall, this recipe is a very minimalistic approach to a vegetarian curry – if you desire to add meat you can basically do it any point, but I included an optional step on where to add protein (I’d recommend using pork or chicken) if you so desire – you’re only using four primary ingredients and four spices beyond salt and pepper.  Despite the simplistic ingredients list, you’ll find that this dish has fairly robust flavors (read: earthy, salty, with a slight hint of sweetness).  That said, it’s a good entry point into Indian flavors as this curry’s flavor profile is heavily influenced by Indian food culture.

Word of warning: even a small Kabocha (the type of winter squash I used) takes up a lot of room so if you’re making this for a single person I’d either cook things in batches or halve the recipe I’ve provided here.

Ingredients:

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  • 1 Kobocha Squash
  • Handful of Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Quart of Coconut Milk (SUGAR FREE, DO NOT USE SWEETENED COCONUT MILK YOU WILL BE VERY SAD)
  • 1 Lime (for its zest)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt, Pepper, Curry Powder, Cardamom, Turmeric, and Garam Masala
  • OPTIONAL: Pork or Chicken or whatever other protein.
  • OPTIONAL: Throw in some toasted cashews at the end for texture and flavor (this allows you to sneak some more protein into the recipe while also keeping vegetarian/vegan).

Recipe:

  1. Start by cutting the Japanese Squash (I used a Kabocha) into small pieces that roughly measure one to one and a half inches in any given direction.   For those of you that use metric, this translates roughly into two and a half to four centimeters.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATIP: I would recommend using a cleaver or some sort of other heavy knife for this as the squash is very tough to cut through.  I’d also recommend cutting into it from the bottom.  Don’t make the mistake I made by trying to cut it from the top.  Do not worry about taking off the skin.  Once cooked, the skin becomes very soft and edible.
  2. Once finished with cutting up the squash, use a spoon to scoop out the innards (the stringy bits and the seeds) and set them aside.  You can choose to throw them out, compost them, save them for later, or whatever.  You won’t be using them in this recipe.
  3. Mince a handful of garlic gloves and a single shallot.  Once done, set them aside in a small bowl.
  4. Using a zester, zest a lime.  When zesting the lime be sure to rotate where you zest from as you want to avoid getting any of the white parts of the lime rind as that’ll leave a bitter and unwelcoming taste in your mouth. Set these aside when you’re done.  Save the lime for something later (like a sorbet or just as a flavor enhancer for your water).
  5. In a large pan, heat it up on low heat so that the pan is warm enough that you can feel a small amount of heat when you hold your hand a few inches above it.  Then pour enough oil to cover the surface of the pan.  Start with a small amount and add more as needed.  We only need enough to make sure nothing burns to the pan, we aren’t looking to provide a kiddie pool for our food.

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  6. Put the garlic and the shallows into the pan.  Using a spatula move them around while you add in a small amount of salt and pepper.  Slowly add in the pieces of squash in the pan.  You can turn up the heat at this point.  If things aren’t sizzling slightly then your pan isn’t hot enough.
  7. OPTIONAL: Throw in your protein and season it with salt, pepper, curry powder, garam masala, cardamom, and turmeric.  Cook it until it is firm to touch.  If you’re unsure if it is done or not cut a piece in half and check to see if it looks translucent or not.  If it isn’t you’re good to go.  If it is, throw it back into the pan and cook it a bit longer.  Once this is done cooking, remove it from heat and set it aside in a plate.  Add it back in once the you have reached step 12; basically you’re going to toss the protein back into the curry at the very end so that it heats up.  If you leave it in the pot with the squash it will overcook and will become very tough.
  8. Season the squash, garlic, shallots mixture with curry powder, garam masala, cardamom, and turmeric.  My own personal preference favors more garam masala and curry powder with a moderate amount of turmeric and only a slight addition of cardamom; you might find that you prefer a different ratio of those spices to one another.  Just be sure to taste your food constantly and adjust as needed (so don’t add too much of any particularly spice right away, add things incrementally).
  9. As the squash begins to soften – you can determine this by looking at its color, as the squash begins to cook its bright vibrant orange will become a much duller, brownish orange hue – transfer it to a separate pot.  Pour the coconut milk into this pot and turn up the heat.
  10. Add the lime zest into the pot with the coconut milk.
  11. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have cooked all of your squash and all of your ingredients are in the pot.  Season and taste accordingly.
  12. Once you’ve achieved the flavor you’re looking for, bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Check in periodically, stir, and taste the squash to see if it’s cooked well enough for your preferences (add more seasoning if necessarily, I found myself having to add more salt than I had originally anticipated as the squash itself is naturally semi-sweet).  As the squash gets more and more cooked, its starches will break down and intermingle with the coconut milk, causing it to naturally thicken.  Do not cover the pot while this happens otherwise your curry will come out much thinner and be more like a soup as opposed to a sauce for your rice.  You’re aiming to get your curry to have a slightly thick and creamy consistency so don’t be afraid to let it simmer for a bit longer than you think it needs to.
  13. Enjoy!

So this is the first recipe I’ve shared on this blog.  I have two other dishes I plan on sharing in the coming week along with two new cold brews I’ve made recently so there’s something to look forward to!  Otherwise comments, questions, constructive criticism on how I can make my recipes easier to follow etc. are always appreciated.

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