Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Vegan Curry
I used to see pumpkins as a decoration. They were a prop for Halloween, or a symbol of bounty for Thanksgiving. Beyond that, they were just a useless gourd rotting in the mud. It’s funny to me now that pumpkin pie was my favorite holiday dessert, and yet it took me years to realize that pumpkins are, in fact, food. It illustrates the disconnect I used to have with food. A disconnect that I believe was a direct result of eating processed products. When your meal comes from a package, it’s easy to eat a long list of ingredients (some good, some horrendous) without much thought for them at all.
As my interest in eating and preparing whole foods increased, I began to see things differently. A pumpkin, it turned out, was a vegetable. A type of winter squash that, when roasted or sautéed, becomes a luscious and wholesome addition to my table. I still find it charming each time I eat it, though. “This is a pumpkin! You’re eating a real pumpkin!” I exclaim to my daughter, who rewards me with an indulging smile. Sometimes I wonder who’s the bigger child. There is something truly satisfying about having that level of involvement in a meal, however. Of being familiar with every ingredient, because I chose it carefully myself. Cooking from scratch may cut my free time, but I’ll be damned if I’m not proud when I watch my children eat my food.
This curry is just what I need on a rainy fall day in Seattle. It’s warm and filling, but not heavy on the tummy. The potatoes add the perfect sweetness, and the pumpkins are delightfully creamy. It’s easy too – by using a prepared red curry paste for the base and adding fresh aromatics like onions and ginger, you get big, authentic flavor without the time commitment. Or, if you really want to impress yourself, try making your own red curry paste. I tried this recipe from Epicurious and it was amazing.
Why it’s good for you
This curry fights inflammation hard; quinoa, turmeric, and ginger all contain strong anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a great choice for meatless Monday, since it’s vegan! Quinoa is a perfect grain for meatless meals, as it’s an excellent source of complete protein.
Orange vegetables like pumpkins and sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene, an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage like cancer and macular degeneration. They’re also high in potassium, which helps our cells use glucose for energy. Without enough potassium, our muscles get tired sooner and our reflexes slow. According to the USDA, the average American misses the recommended daily intake by almost half.
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 small sugar pumpkin (about 1 1/2 lbs.), or 5 cups raw, peeled, diced pumpkin flesh.*
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), washed, unpeeled, and diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
- 1 heaping Tbsp. red curry paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth (or whatever broth you want to use)
- 1 can (14.2 oz.) full-fat coconut milk
- 1 3" piece of lemongrass, outer 2 layers removed, halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup dried lentils
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 3 cups cooked quinoa, warm
- For garnish:
- fresh cilantro, chopped
- Thai chilies, thinly sliced
- lime wedges
- Sriracha or Gochujang
- To prepare the pumpkin, wash the outside and peel the skin off using a vegetable peeler. Halve, remove guts and seeds, and dice the pumpkin flesh.
- In a large, heavy cooking pot (I used a Dutch oven), heat 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add pumpkin and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned (about 10 minutes). Remove pumpkin to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 1.5 more Tbsp. oil and add sweet potatoes and onions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned (about 10 minutes).
- Push the contents of the pan to one side and add the remaining Tbsp. of oil to the empty side of the pan. Add ginger and curry paste to the oil and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add cooked pumpkin, broth, coconut milk, lemongrass, and lentils to the pot and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, top 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup curry for each serving. Garnish with cilantro, chilies, and lime wedges for squeezing. Add hot sauce as desired.
*If you can't find a sugar pumpkin (also called a "pie pumpkin"), butternut squash is a delicious substitute.
Recipe adapted from Chicken, Sweet Potato and Coconut Curry on BBC Good Food.