‘Tis October– jewel-toned pumpkins and pale, pimpled gourds and squashes are everywhere, ranging from the miniature, bite-size variety to the pregnant ones too heavy to carry and the big white ones that look like enormous heads of garlic.
To me, this recipe – pumpkin and salmon yellow curry with bok choy – embodies what October is all about: a slight chill in the air, Halloween decorations adorning window displays and backyards, settling into the rhythm of the semester, while the end (six weeks more!) is tantalizingly close.
This recipe comes courtesy Nigella, specifically Nigella Bites. I love Nigella, the simplicity and lushness of her cooking, especially when she’s cooking for one. Her recipe includes shrimp as well, which of course, you can add here if you like along with the salmon. But I think the salmon is quite hearty and substantial on its own. This golden, marigold curry is perfectly balanced and will warm you right up after a long day at work or school. Aside from prepping the pumpkin, which can take a few minutes, the rest of it is pretty straightforward and quick.
Prep: 40 minutes
Approx. 1/2 pound salmon fillet (preferably organic), skinned and cut into large, bite-sized pieces
1 lemongrass stalk, cut in thirds (whack the lemongrass with your knife at different points along its spine so that it releases its lovely citrusy scent)
1/2 a medium-sized pumpkin, peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks (3/4 pound approx.)
1 1/2 cans of coconut milk (approx. 20 oz.)
1 tbsp. Thai yellow curry paste. Start with 1 tbsp and then add more during the cooking if you want more heat. (I like the brand Mae Ploy. You can also use red curry paste if you don’t have yellow – see my recipe here). Note: the curry paste is not vegetarian – it has shrimp paste in it
2 tbsp. palm sugar (use cane sugar if you can’t find palm sugar)
1-2 tbsp. fish sauce (start with 1 tbsp and add more later if needed)
1 1/2 cups warm water/vegetable stock/ fish stock (I used vegetable stock here)
1 tsp. turmeric
3 heads of bok choy or any other green vegetable
Juice of one lime
Cilantro, for garnish
- Prep your ingredients: first, cut up the pumpkin into bite size pieces – discard the mushy center and seeds and remove skin.
- Cut the salmon into bite size pieces as well, approximately the same size of the pumpkin.
- Chop your lemongrass and put a heavy saucepan or crock pot on medium heat.
- Add 1 tbsp. of curry paste into the pan and skim the creamy bit of the coconut milk from the top of the can. Combine the curry paste and coconut cream well until it becomes a thick but pale-looking sauce.
- Continue to gently stir the sauce and add the warm water or stock, fish sauce, lemongrass, palm sugar, and turmeric. Bring to a boil. The sauce will become bright and golden once you add the turmeric.
- Add the pumpkin and simmer, on medium-high heat until the pumpkin is almost fully cooked (cooking time of squash varies considerably – so keep an eye out. It could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes).
- Pierce the pumpkin with a fork and when it is still a soft but with some stiffness still in it, add the salmon and bok choy and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- When the vegetables wilt, squeeze in the juice of one lime.
- Taste to make sure the flavors are balanced. Add fish sauce if you desire more saltiness, sugar if you want more sweetness, and more lime if you want it more sour. Take the pan off the heat and garnish with cilantro just before serving over white or brown rice.