Pumpkin stew with a Caribbean twistTuesday, October 30
Here we go again!
I can’t believe a year has passed already and it’s time for Halloween again. Last year I wrote a column ranting about corporate America convincing us to spend far too much money on ridiculous costumes and overpriced candy so we can send our kids out into the streets to collect candy from them, all while we sat around the house, handing out candy to the kids who knocked on our door.
You would think that with the passing of another year and the addition of a little bundle of joy of my own, I might be a little softer and cuddlier this year. Yes, I was suckered into to buying our five-month-old a ridiculously cute Halloween costume, solely for the purpose of taking countless pictures to pull out and embarrass her with when she brings her first boyfriend home.
That doesn’t mean I have caved though. I still think the whole mess is a sham and another excuse to reach into our wallets, but I guess I have to bite my tongue and be a good family man, at least for the night.
Despite all of this, the chef in me is always looking for ways to be efficient, not waste anything, and always find a way to save pennies. When it comes to Halloween, that means finding creative ways to use pumpkins.
So it never seems to fail that shortly following the ghoulish day we see countless recipes for pumpkin soup and homemade pumpkin pie. I have even seen pumpkin cheesecake, creme brulee and ice cream dishes prepared. Sadly though, they almost always taste the same, layered with fall spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
This year when I started thinking about what to do, I was hard pressed to come up with an idea that went in a different direction. Maybe it was just a funk or being stuck in the standard box of classic pumpkin pairings. Maybe it was the early onset of winter that has put me in a state of depression, longing for the warm tropical sunshine of the Caribbean, rather than the pre-Halloween snowfall.
As my mind began to wander, that’s when it hit me. If there was ever a more unique cooking culture to take up the use of the often underappreciated pumpkin, it was Caribbean cuisine. Perhaps it’s because of its relatively cheap price and easiness to grow, or maybe it’s just because of how it lends itself so well to the other flavours of the islands, but pumpkin has often found its way into many a Caribbean recipe.
So instead of sharing with you another boring pumpkin pie recipe, I took inspiration from a Jamaican-style pumpkin stew with my own twist on it. It still offers reminders of fall, with the fresh pumpkin, butternut squash, and carrots, but takes on the feeling of warmth, with its addition of ginger, red curry paste and coconut milk.
It is the perfect hearty vegetable stew on its own, but with the addition of a few items like some jerk chicken or blackened prawns, and some white rice, it can quickly become a meal all in itself.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did putting it together. Now it’s time to do the only thing I really enjoy doing on Halloween night, raiding the kids’ sacks as they make their way back to the house. Don’t judge, I’m just doing my part to help keep the next generation healthy and in shape! I’m sure the kids will still have enough candy to ride the sugar high well into the weekend. I’m starting to think that the teachers are the ones who have it all figured out, scheduling a professional development day following Halloween night.
Having seen our boys bounce off the walls following their sugar induced buzz, I guess I can’t say that I blame you.
Feeds: 4-6 people
Active Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
2 medium carrots, peeled, chopped into rounds
butternut squash, peeled, large diced
1 sugar pumpkin, or 2 cups chopped standard pumpkin
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
4 Tbsp. canola oil
1 red and yellow pepper, seeded, large diced
3 Tbsp. red curry paste, I used the Patak
1 can coconut milk
1 litre vegetable stock
red onion, peeled, large dice
1 can chick peas, 540 ml., drained and rinsed
Preheat a large saucepot to medium heat
Add cooking oil, ginger and garlic, quickly saute
Add the peppers and continue to saute
Quickly add the carrots, squash and pumpkin, and saute
Add the curry paste and stir to combine, then deglaze with stock
Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes
Remove the lid, stir gently, add the red onions and chick peas
Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender, another 10 minutes or so
Adjust the seasoning and prepare to serve
This is a fantastic dish all on its on and will go a long way to fill the body and feed the soul on a cold winter’s day. If you want to though, you can easily take this recipe to the next level by throwing in some shredded jerk chicken or saut ed prawns. Or serve it with some sticky rice or roasted potatoes to make it into a meal.