Nigella Lawson’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin Seafood Curry

Oh the lunch and dinner parties I have put on with this curry at their core! It is impressive, it is easy (don’t let an interesting mix of slightly unusual ingredients fool you), it is unusual and it is delicious. This recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites – I am always impressed by how easy and clear her wonderful recipes can be. I made this sweet, delicate curry, full of complicated flavours and highly satisfying quantities of prawns and salmon for the last lunch party I was part of at my parents’ house, before returning to the cold and snow of the Northern Hemisphere. I can’t wait to find an opportunity to make it again very soon…

Nigella Lawson’s Thai Yellow Pumpkin Seafood Curry

(Makes enough for 8-10 people)

2x 400ml (13.5 fl oz) tins (or close enough) of coconut milk

2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste (or yellow if you can find it)

700ml (24 fl oz) Fish Stock

6 tablespoons of fish sauce

4 tablespoons of caster sugar (or just white sugar – see discussion of caster sugar here)

3 lemongrass stalks (run your knife along their length to bruise them, and cut into three)

A handful of lime leaves (destalk and cut into thin strips)

1 teaspoon tumeric

1.5-2kg (2.5-4.5 lbs) butternut squash

750g-1kg (1.6-2.2 lbs) of salmon fillets, skin removed

750g-1kg (1.6-2.2 lbs) raw prawns (shrimp), peeled with tails still on (when prawns cook they turn pink – raw prawns will be white or greyish)

Two bunches of bok choy

300g green beans (french beans)

The juice of a lime

Coriander (cilantro) to garnish

To be served with rice

This recipe basically involved putting everything in one large pot, one after another. It is particularly simple if you prepare everything in advance – put out all the ingredients, and cut up the butternut squash into bite-sized cubes, bruise and cut up the lemon grass, prepare the lime leaves. (It doesn’t matter too much – there is a lot of ‘on the stove’ time when you can do these things, but I like how pleasantly stress-free this preparation makes the whole cooking process.) Begin by scooping the cream off the top of the coconut milk, and mixing it at the bottom of a pot with the tablespoon of curry paste on medium-low heat until it sizzles slightly. Add the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, sugar and mix together with the heat turned up to medium. Mix in the lemongrass, lime leaves, turmeric and bring to a simmer. Add the butternut squash and cook until it softens, but still keeps its shape – this won’t take very long, maybe 5-10mins (if you substitute it for some other kind of pumpkin it will take a little longer). The curry part can be made in advance, but if you do make it early, take it off the heat before the pumpkin is fully soft.

Remembering to leave time to cook the rice, at least half an hour before you want to serve, prepare the seafood – check the salmon for any little bones, remove the skin if you need to, make sure there are no scales left on it, and slice into bite-sized pieces. If the prawns haven’t been peeled, peel and clean them, leaving the tails on. At this stage you should also wash and roughly chop the bok choy leaves, and cut the tops off the beans and cut into three. Heat up the curry to lightly simmering again and add the seafood – you will see it cook and change colour quickly before your eyes – within a few minutes the prawns should be pink and the salmon should lose that slightly translucent appearance of uncooked fish. Add the vegetables and allow to cook for a few more minutes until the bok choy wilts a little, and finally squeeze in the juice of a lime (or even add the juice of two limes – this just adds the perfect finish of sweet acidity that really makes this dish). Remove the lemongrass (you don’t want to accidentally be chewing on lemongrass, or to serve it to guests who don’t know whether or not they are supposed to be eating it). Serve over rice and garnish with coriander (cilantro).

In the middle of cooking this one I had a sudden concern that some of our guests may not eat seafood, so I ended up also making a modified vegetarian version: Instead of the fish sauce and fish stock, I added vegetable stock, half a table spoon of light soy sauce and a glug of worcestershire sauce. When it turned out that I had worried for nothing, I added everything but the seafood and vegetables, and blended it to make a very delicious soup that we had the next day. (If you are going to do this, just remember to take out all the lemongrass!)


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