The smell of roasted pumpkin, and curry leaves sizzling in coconut oil, is enough to make anyone want to go to Kerala, which is where a variation of this dish, known as “olan,” originates. The sweet pumpkin, earthy beans, and creamy coconut come together to create a gentle curry, perfect for eating in the autumn, when a variety of pumpkins and squashes abound.
Serves 4 as a main course
1¼ pounds pumpkin or squash
1 tablespoon garam masala
salt and ground black pepper
coconut or canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 Indian green chiles, slit lengthways
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 x 14-ounce can of black-eyed peas, drained
1/3 pound ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 x 14-ounce can of coconut milk
optional: 10 fresh curry leaves
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with foil. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, then cut it into crescents around ¾ inch at the widest part. Transfer to a big bowl, drizzle with canola oil, and sprinkle with the garam masala, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then arrange in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, or until soft and tender.
Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of coconut or canola oil into a large lidded frying pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the slit green chiles and the onion. Cook for 12 minutes, or until the onion is soft and golden, then add the garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the drained beans and stir to mix together. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes until soft and jammy around the edges.
Next, add the turmeric, 1/3 teaspoon of black pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the coconut milk. Put the roasted pumpkin into the pan and stir to mix. Cover with the lid and leave to heat through for 5 minutes. Check for salt and heat, adjusting if you wish, then transfer to a serving dish.
If you like, you can finish off the dish with a quick curry leaf tarka: put 2 tablespoons of oil into a small frying pan over medium to high heat. When hot, throw in the curry leaves and let them crackle and turn translucent in the oil. Pour over the pumpkin, then serve.
This dish goes well with elephant ear naan, tamarind and caramelized red onion rice, and some cucumber and mint raita.