I’ve been holding out, restraining myself from coming home with an assortment of winter squash, but I eventually succumbed to all those shades of orange.  Without question, in a few months I will have had my fair share of pumpkin and other winter squash.  Notwithstanding, as autumn unfolds, I am eager to dive into some new fall recipes.  I’ve prepared two pumpkin/winter squash dishes in recent days; one uses a green curry paste as its base (more of a soup), the other a red curry paste (this one a stew).  Both dishes are comforting and offer a nice amount of heat (of course, you can always adjust the spice level to your liking).  For me, the spicier the better.

Bookmarked this recipe for pumpkin laksa several months ago in anticipation of the arrival of fall.  I discovered this soup while perusing Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries.  A very nice book in which Slater chronicles a year of cooking in harmony with the seasons’ produce.  I must confess, I’ve never had laksa so I can’t vouch for its authenticity; authentic or not, what’s  important to me is taste.  And this delicious soup offers lots of unique flavor.  Consider adding more tomatoes and pumpkin than the recipe calls for.  I used a combination of red kuri and kabocha squash, but you can use just about any variety of winter squash, such as butternut, Hubbard, and Queensland.

Laksa = a spicy, coconut curry broth based noodle dish from South East Asia (i.e., Malaysia and Singapore). 


Next up, Thai red curry pumpkin.  The coconut is a bit more subdued, more in the background in this preparation as compared to the previous recipe.  There is more pumpkin and “pumpkiny” flavor overall in this dish compared to the pumpkin laksa.  All ingredients meld nicely — the pumpkin, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime leaves, lime juice, basil, and red curry paste.  You could even add a few more vegetables, such as green beans or cherry tomatoes.  I’ve also been toying with the idea of adding some seafood — shrimp, mussels, or even squid.

Make the red curry paste in advance and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (the curry paste will keep for a few weeks).  Then, you can whip up a batch of Thai red curry pumpkin in no time.  You’ll have plenty of curry paste left over for several more batches, but its uses do not stop here.  A while back I used the red curry paste to make this dish, and more ideas are percolating as we speak.

This is what you’ll need for the Thai red curry paste…

Although not always easy to find, look for cilantro with the roots attached.

Pumpkin Laksa

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries
1 pound pumpkin or winter squash (such as red kuri, kabocha), cut into large chunks
5 red bird’s eye chiles
4 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
Thumb size piece of ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, roughly chop the inner heart leaves
6 lime leaves
5-6 cilantro roots
Large handful of cilantro
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
8-9 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of half a lime
1/4 pound noodles
Large handful of mint leaves, chopped

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and steam until tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

To make the spice paste, add the following ingredients to a food processor jar: chiles, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, limes leaves, coriander roots, and half of the coriander leaves and stems.  Blitz them to a pulp, adding a little oil if the mixture needs it to go round.

Place a fairly deep pan over a moderate heat, add half the spice paste and fry it, moving it round the pan so it does not scorch; saute for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock and coconut milk, and bring to a boil.
Add the tomatoes, fish sauce, and lime juice, and cook for 3 minutes.  Drop in the pasta, add the steamed pumpkin, and continue cooking about 6-7 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Place a swirl of noodles in each bowl, pour over the laksa, and add the mint and remaining chopped coriander leaves.

Pumpkin Curry

1 1/2 pounds pumpkin or winter squash, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons curry paste; more or less to your liking (recipe below)
4-5 kaffir lime leaves, sliced in half, middle vein removed
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
Handful of Thai basil, chopped
Juice of half a lime
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water 

Pour half the coconut in a pot over medium heat.  Add the curry paste and mix well.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the pumpkin, the rest of the coconut milk, and the vegetable broth or water to the pot.  Season with fish sauce.  Cover and simmer until the pumpkin is soft, about 15 minutes.  Lightly mash some of the pumpkin.  Add the kaffir lime leaves and red pepper, and cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Serve immediately.

 Thai Red Chile Paste

15 dried red (long or bird’s eye) Thai chiles
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh galangal (or ginger, if you can’t find galangal), minced
2 tablespoons cilantro roots/stems, chopped
3 tablespoons shallots, diced
1/4 cup garlic, minced
Fresh Thai red chiles to taste (2 for medium heat and 3-4 for hot)
Lime zest, 5 large strips (used a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chiles and rehydrate them in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain and set the chiles aside, reserving the soaking liquid.

Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and toast in a dry skillet over low heat, about 4-5 minutes (makes the shrimp paste more fragrant).  Set aside.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender jar (except for the vegetable oil).  If not using the shrimp paste, substitute 1 teaspoon salt.  Process until smooth.  If needed, add some of the reserved chile soaking liquid until you achieve a smooth paste.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the paste and stir for 2-3 minutes, until the oil incorporates into the paste.  Let cool and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. The Thai paste will last about 2 weeks.

 *Note: Mother nature is unpredictable and spice levels may vary (start with less chiles, you can always add more).

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