In late February and early March I think a lot of us experience a bit of a cooking crisis. I’m not so keen on the foods and techniques of winter anymore, and rather fatigued on soups and stews and braises in general, but with changeable temperatures and frigid mornings and evenings raw salads and the foods of spring are not quite appealing yet. Not to mention that the farmers markets are still stocked with root vegetables and winter squash, and asparagus and other signs of spring are still a while off. This is where curry comes in. Seasonal transitions are an ideal time to go big with medicinal foods: lots of ginger, garlic, chiles, onion and other alliums, fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley, citrus, and potent immunity-boosting, anti-inflammatory spices, like cumin, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, and turmeric. Warming foods and spices stimulate circulation, soothe and regulate digestion, and get stagnant energy moving and flowing again — an early spring cleaning for the body after the sluggishness of winter.
A spicy curry is a great way to bring all these superstar ingredients together in the same pot to warm the body and soul from the inside out — a perfect meal for a chilly late-winter night. I like to use a combination of starchy winter vegetables, in this case Yukon gold potatoes and butternut squash, balanced by lighter ones — like broccoli, fennel, and zucchini. But this recipe is flexible, so play around with the vegetables you have on hand. Sweet potato would be great, as would cauliflower, kale, collards, or mustard greens, carrots, delicata or kabocha squash. Finished with lots of lime juice, cilantro, and crunchy toasted almonds, this makes for a satisfying one-bowl, plant-based meal.
Spicy coconut curry with butternut squash, potatoes and broccoli
Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped (I included the seeds)
2 tablespoons curry powder, homemade or purchased
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 13.5-ounce coconut milk
1 cup broth or stock of your choice, or water
1 small tomato, diced
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of red chile flakes (or to taste)
1 small stalk of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 zucchini, sliced into quarter-moons (about 1-1/2 cups)
juice of 1 lime
cooked basmati rice
toasted sliced almonds, cashews or pumpkin seeds
Heat ghee in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mustard, cumin, and fennel seeds, and toast for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until the seeds begin to pop. Add onion and fennel and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and jalapeño and cook for another minute or two, then add curry powder, turmeric, and black pepper, and stir for a minute to toast the spices. Clear a space in the bottom of the pot and add the tomato paste, stirring to caramelize it and then stirring it into the vegetable and spice mixture.
Add squash and potatoes and stir to coat with spices. Add coconut milk, broth, tomato, cinnamon stick, pinch of chile flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes and squash are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add broccoli and zucchini to the curry and simmer until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in lime juice. Season with additional salt, if needed, to taste. Serve with rice and garnishes of your preference.