The past week has been an incredible hive of activity - choir performance over the weekend, preparations for it, as well as teaching and getting ready for musicianship class finals. And now I've got a two-week hiatus (sort of) before I dive right into Level 2 of the Australian Kodaly Certificate of Education course that my workplace is organizing.
All this to say, I've not had much time to actually get a blog post up on what's going on in my kitchen despite having made sure to take photographs of the finished products.
I've been in the mood for comfort food of late. I'm not sure why, though I suspect that after ten years in the US, my body sort of attuned itself to the seasons - my thoughts tend to turn towards warm stews and soups, and slow-cooked dishes around this time of year since coming back to Malaysia.
Not only that, it's coming up to Thanksgiving. While I've only had ten Thanksgivings in my entire life, I've found that for me, every day is Thanksgiving really - safe food, wonderful friends, working at a job I love, having a beautiful place and equally beautiful kitchen to cook in. What's there not to be thankful for, when I have people like Life For Beginners and the Devil in Prada, the Bloke, and S, my Disaster Duo Comrade, in my life?
It's a cause for celebration - and besides, I felt like eating pumpkin anyway, and what's more Thanksgivingy than pumpkin?
Which is why I turned to Nigel Slater's curry recipe.
I've been a huge fan of this man since hearing about his extraordinary Kitchen Diaries. There's a little sentimentality involved too, as the UK hardback edition of the book was the first serious cook book I bought when I came back here. His recipes are practical and low-fuss - and most importantly, a lot of the recipes in the Kitchen Diaries are naturally gluten-free. They're also easily adaptable to local, seasonal ingredients, which is just as important. This curry recipe is a perfect example of how flexible his cooking is, since I didn't actually have all the ingredients on hand - meaning, no tomatoes, no coriander and no mint. But I did have ground chicken and far too many green onions, and the result was still indescribably comforting and delicious.
Chicken, Pumpkin and Apples with Ginger, Coconut Milk and Lime
Adapted from Nigel Slater's Pumpkin Curry
Serves: 4 (it served 1 rather small eater for a week)
2-3 stalks green onions
Canola/sunflower oil – 1 tablespoon
A large lump of ginger
Small, very hot chillies – 2 (I used dried)
Stalks of lemon grass - 1
Ground turmeric – 1 teaspoon
Ground cumin - 1 teaspoon
Ground coriander - 1 teaspoon
Ground chicken - 400g
Green apple – 1, diced
Vegetable stock (or water at a push) -400ml
Pumpkin or butternut squash – half of a small one
Coconut milk - 200ml (1 box)
The juice of a plump lime
To serve: Steamed rice
Grate the ginger (or cut up into matchsticks, it just so happens I can’t stand pieces of ginger in my food so that’s how I do it). If using fresh chillies, chop them up fine; if using dried like me, just cut them into half or leave them whole. Peel and discard the outer leaves of the lemon grass then very finely slice the soft inner core. Peel the pumpkin or squash, scrape out and discard the seeds and fibres and cut the flesh into large chunks. Or you could save the seeds for roasting! The pumpkin chunks need to be a good 4 or 5 cms in size if they are not to break up and become soup.
Roughly chop up the green onions, green parts and white parts both. Cook them slowly with the oil in a deep heavy-based saucepan, until the white parts look soft and translucent but not burnt. Add the ginger, chillies and lemon grass to the onions and continue cooking for five minutes. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and coriander.
Add in the ground chicken, stirring the entire time to break up any lumps. When it has almost cooked through, add the green apples, stir around for about a minute, then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer. Season the pumpkin with salt and black pepper. Lower the pumpkin into the pot and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, checking now and again for tenderness. It is worth remembering that it is a fine line between tender squash and squishy squash.
Stir in the coconut milk, gently so as not to smash the squash, and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, check the seasoning, then stir in the limejuice and extra green onions, if desired. Serve with the rice.
Note: This curry tastes even better the next day as the flavours have a chance to settle in. I had it in the fridge for about a week and it was fantastic.