Chicken and Pumpkin Curry

This is a version of my favorite go to curry recipe. The base is so versatile and can be used with fish. shrimp, tofu, beans and yes, chicken. It comes together easily and if you are a quick chopper, will be ready in no time. What makes this taste so good are a few essential ingredients – fresh garlic, ginger, lemongrass, Indian curry powder, coconut milk and coriander (cilantro). For the rest you can add what is already in your fridge or freezer. I try to use many different colored vegetables and herbs, which make this meal just as appealing to the eye as to your stomach.

Bear in mind the different cooking times for the vegetables, particularly if using pumpkin. I added it to the pan roughly 10 minutes before the remaining vegetables. Zucchini usually goes in at the end, as it quickly looses its texture and color. 

As to the chicken, here’s a tip that you might or might not know yet. If you cut the chicken breasts into bite size pieces and marinate them in buttermilk for a couple of hours in the fridge, the meat won’t turn tough and dry during the cooking process. It makes such a difference in texture. I can’t stand dry chicken breast and this is what I do to avoid it. Another option is to use a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, especially if you want to cook a whole breast in one piece. If you want to keep this recipe dairy-free, omit the buttermilk, or make your own using 1 cup soy milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or try the lemon juice and olive oil marinade.

You can make this as spicy as you like. I add a chili if I have one, otherwise  a bit more curry powder or cayenne pepper can spice things up. Here’s one last tip for cooking lemongrass. Only the lower 5-6″ (12-15cm) are soft enough to be eaten once you have removed the tough, outer husks. Slice the light green sticks into very thin rounds and then mince. You want them to be as fine as possible, otherwise they might not soften in the pan and you’ll end up with some chewy lemongrass bits in your curry. Use the left-over husks to make delicious lemon grass tea. Add the ginger peel as well, if you like.  

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 large chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs., 700g), cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk (for marinading chicken)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1″ (2.5cm) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced
  • 3 sticks of lemon grass, see note above
  • 1 or 2 chillies, end and seeds removed, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Indian curry powder (more or less, depending on how hot it is)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 can (15oz., 400ml) light coconut milk
  • 1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 – 2 lbs., 750-900g) or other firm pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1″ (2.5cm) pieces or wedges
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets and stem diced
  • 1/4 cauliflower, cut  into florets
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 hands full mushrooms, rinsed and quartered or torn into pieces
  • large handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

Method

Place cut up chicken breasts into buttermilk, stir until all pieces are coated and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours or over night.

You’ll need a large pan with a lid. Over medium heat, fry ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chili (if using) in sesame oil until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Stir often and keep your eyes on it, it will burn quickly. Add curry powder, turmeric and salt.

Drain buttermilk from chicken and add chicken to spices. Fry for a couple of minutes until chicken is coated all over with spices and cooked on the outside. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, then add pumpkin, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Now add remaining vegetables. Give it all a good stir, cover the pan again and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Check your vegetables once in between. When all vegetables are cooked, but still retain their color and texture, remove pan from heat, stir in lemon juice and coriander and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serve over brown rice.

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