Colourful, fragrant and full of texture, this dish shows you don’t need meat to make a good curry. Pulses and nuts add protein to the melting pot of vegetables and spices for a healthy, balanced meal.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
1 kg butternut squash or pumpkin
4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter
2 fat cloves garlic
1 thumb-sized piece fresh root ginger
1 small hot green chilli
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp freeze-dried curry leaves (optional)
100g red lentils
3 or 4 ripe tomatoes
1 × 400g can chickpeas, drained
100g cashew nuts
2 large handfuls baby leaf spinach
salt and pepper
chapattis, naan breads or rice to serve
Peel the squash using a very good peeler, or a small sharp knife. Be careful, as the skin is tough. Cut the squash into 4 pieces. Scoop out the seeds using a dessertspoon. Cut the flesh into large cubes about 3 cm across.
Halve and slice the onion. Put a large frying pan or wok over a medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter, then after 30 seconds add the squash and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are starting to soften.
While the vegetables cook, thinly slice the garlic and finely grate the ginger. Slit the chilli, without cutting through the stalk end. If using a larger, milder chilli, de-seed and finely chop it, then add the flesh to the pan.
Boil the kettle. Stir the garlic, ginger, chilli, spices and curry leaves, if using, into the pan and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant and the vegetables are coated in spice.
Stir in the lentils, then pour in 400 ml hot water from the kettle. Stir, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a few times.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Roughly chop the tomatoes, then stir them in with the chickpeas, re-cover the pan, then simmer for 10 minutes more, again stirring once or twice. The lentils should be plump and tender. Squash one against the side of the pan to be sure. Season the curry with salt and pepper.
Next, toast the nuts. Scatter the nuts over a baking tray and roast them in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden.
To finish the dish, stir in the spinach leaves and scatter the nuts over the top. The spinach will wilt with the heat of the curry. Serve with chapattis, naan breads or rice and your favourite chutney.
How hot is the chilli?
Fat chillies tend to be milder. Smaller chillies, whether thin, finger-length, or small and squat, are usually much hotter. In this recipe, a hot chilli is simply split, but not chopped. This is a good way to add a bit of heat and the flavour from a hot chilli, without having to chop it or remove the seeds. Remember, all chillies vary. So, before you start chopping, slice a little from the end of the chilli, touch the cut end with your finger, then touch the tip of your tongue. If it’s hotter than you’d like, go easy – if it’s milder, use more, or add the seeds too.
What To Cook & How To Cook It.