Saturday, 1 October 2011

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Curry

Sometimes I don't want a curry that is too rich or heavy, but I still want a good depth of flavour. I think this recipe is Bengali in origin. It uses an Indian five-spice blend called Panch Phoran. The spices are left whole so you get nice little flavour bursts with every mouthful that perfectly complement the fresh sweetness of the butternut squash and the round earthiness of the chickpeas.
The dash of fresh ground fennel seeds at the end really gives the dish a brightness and wonderful aniseed aroma.

Serves 4

1tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp panch phoran (see my 'how to make it' if you'd like to make your own)
1-2 green chillies, cut in half lengthways and deseeded
1 small onion chopped
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
thumb sized piece ginger, grated
salt to taste
sugar to taste
500g butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 2cm pieces
200ml boiling water
200g cooked chickpeas
1 tsp ground garam masala
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground to a powder

In a large heavy frying pan, heat the oil and add the bay leaf, panch phoran, chillies and fry gently for 1-2 minutes until the seeds begin to pop

Add the chopped onion and stir well to coat with the spices. Fry gently until very soft and translucent.

Add the tumeric, ginger paste, cumin and coriander, salt and sugar and a splash of water and cook for 1-2 minutes

Add the butternut squash and the boiling water. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Cook until the squash is tender but don't allow it to become mushy.

Stir in the chickpeas, garam masala and ground fennel. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through and everything is well combined.

Serve with basmati rice and yogurt.

Photo: ©childsdesign 2011

Panch Phoran

I have always kept a well stocked spice cupboard because I really enjoy making curries from scratch. I try to keep whole spices and grind them myself as they last longer and the flavour is much better than pre-ground spices. It is important that you keep them in airtight containers in a cool, dry and dark place. Wall mounted spice racks may look impressive and make for easier access but light is the enemy and blasts the oils from even the most robust of spices. This can leave you with nothing more than dust which is useless for cooking.

On one of my curry making quests I found a recipe that uses Panch Phoran. This is a blend of five Indian spices – fenugreek seeds, nigella (kalonji) seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. You can buy it ready blended in the shops but as I already had these spices as separate entities, I thought why not mix my own.

It is very simple to put together as all the proportions are identical for each spice, so I measured a couple of teaspoons of each one into a bowl, stirred to mix well and tipped them into a jar ready to be used with ease in my cooking. Traditionally it is always used as whole spices and never ground.

Fenugreek – Buff coloured and looks like little stones.
Nigella (Kalonji) – Slightly irregular-shaped and deep black in colour.
Fennel – Elongated and green
Cumin – Elongated and brown
Black Mustard – Small, round and dark brown

Photo: ©childsdesign 2011
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