Saturday, 26 February 2011

Pumpkin Laksah

This is adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe - which will be a common theme here! I've added some more greens, reduced the coconut and changed the spicing a little, and replaced the cherry tomatoes with tinned, as it makes a very good storecupboard meal with that swap. I've also added some greens to make it a tad more nutritious. It's a warming, spicy/sour combination which takes less than an hour to make - as little as 30 minutes if you have a helping hand to peel and chop the pumpkin! We added some sneaky pakoras from the awesome local shop for a little variety.

I could fill a page about how delicious and wonderful the pumpkin we used for this dish is, but I think I will save it for another time. Suffice to say, you should use a firm winter squash with plenty of flavour, or it will be overwhelmed by the strong spice paste. We used a Crown Prince: these can stand lots of cooking without falling apart, and have sweet and delectable flesh. Never eat a carving pumpkin!

  • 500g good pumpkin, or butternut squash
  • A handful of coriander stems
  • 1 whole red chilli or a couple of birds' eye
  • A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 2 juicy whole lemongrass stems
  • 4 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2x 400g tins plum (not chopped) tomatoes
  • 400ml of chicken or vegetable stock (if using boullion, halve the powder)
  • 1 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 200g crinkly green cabbage (e.g. Savoy), roughly shredded
  • 100g dried egg noodles
  • fresh coriander leaves
  • fresh mint leaves
  • two limes

Chop the pumpkin into large pieces and set it steaming: it will take about 20 minutes to cook through. Whiz together the coriander stems, chilli, ginger, garlic and lemongrass in a blender until you have a paste. Fry this gently in a deep pan (like the one pictured) in vegetable oil over a low heat, stirring so it doesn't burn, until the garlic is just cooked and starting to colour. Pour in the stock and coconut milk, stir and bring to a boil. Slice the tomatoes in the tins into halves or large-ish chunks using a table knife and lift the pieces into the pan with a fork. Add the fish sauce, mix very gently, and simmer for five minutes.

In the meantime, remove the steamer full of cooked pumpkin, and use the steaming water to blanche the shredded cabbage - a matter of a 90 seconds. Drain the cabbage, and cook the dried noodles, according to their packet instructions. Tip the pumpkin and cabbage into the curry pot, and add a swirl of cooked noodles into each bowl. Spoon the laksah into each bowl, top with generous handfuls of coriander and mint leaves, and squeeze over half a lime onto each bowl. Serves four; or more with pakoras or more noodles!

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