Whether you have been to the Windies or not, this recipe for Coconut and Pumpkin Curry will help you create a little bit of paradise at home
Some are born to a regular Caribbean idyll, some, like me achieve it by scrimping on non-essentials like children and some even have it thrust upon them. Not for all the old canard 'I took my wife to the West Indies last year' 'Jamaica?' 'No, she came of her own accord!'
For those who can and wish to, now is a wonderful time to visit the Windies. For those who can't or won't - and there is much to be said for a cool, sand-fly-free environment, and a new bathroom for the price of a suite with private pool and dedicated palm tree - here is a taste of Paradise.
I enjoyed this splendid dish not once but twice in St. Lucia at The Naked Fisherman, a delightful al fresco beach-front restaurant at Cap Maison, near Rodney Bay. (If this moves you to write in, aghast at the inflated salary that The Society must be paying me, please note that this escapade was made possible by marrying someone who isn't on wine-trade wages, living in a modest rabbit-hutch, working into my dotage and keeping my genes to myself).
Had the weather been less changeable, I would probably have had it every day, with a different piece of ocean-fresh fish perched on top. Roast chicken or char-grilled lamb would be delicious too, or a handful of cooked chickpeas, stirred in at the last minute. The ingredients are readily available here and most store cupboards will already contain some curry powder if not the wherewithal to knock up a decent garam masala. Our charming lady chef, Sam, generously offered to tell me how she makes it, and my reconstruction follows, with the addition of a bit of spinach for added greenery and because it's good for me.
Be sure to know the strength of your curry powder before you start. I used a medium tandoori blend, which was a bit hotter than I expected. This should not be a red-hot dish but a warm, sweet and spicy one, so as to remain as wine-friendly to our Society offerings as it was to the generous, tropical chardonnay offered by the glass at the water's edge.
Recipe: The Naked Fisherman Coconut Pumpkin Curry
for 2-3 as a main course, 4-6 as a main with grilled fish, chicken or lamb
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 tsp medium curry powder, according to taste and strength
- 1 tsp garam masala
- A dash (about a tablespoon) of fresh thyme leaves
- A dash of ground ginger (a heaped teaspoon is about right)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 small green pepper and 1 small red one, deseeded and diced
- 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
- 500g pumpkin or squash (about 750g whole), peeled, seeded and cut into 3cm chunks
- A small bag of baby spinach leaves
Heat the oil in a large pan.
Add the curry powder and garam masala, then the onion and peppers, along with the thyme and ground ginger. Put a lid on the pan and let them soften gently in their own steam - about 8-10 minutes.
Now add the pumpkin, along with a good pinch of salt and the coconut milk.
Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered until the pumpkin is just tender, adding a little water if needed. It's important not to overcook it, so check after about 15 minutes or so. It should retain some bite, especially if you are making this in advance and reheating it, also an option.
Now add the spinach leaves and let them wilt down in the steam for a minute or so. Stir in, taste and add more salt if necessary.
Serve as it is with flatbread, or keep warm while you deal with your catch of the day, be it fish or meat. Alternatively, set it aside until you need it. I take my inspiration from Chef Sam and spoon it into individual casserole dishes, which I then reheat until bubbling in a fairly hot oven - about 15 minutes at 190ºC/Gas 5.
Match of the day
In wine terms, the background heat and low-key spicing here are secondary to the sweetness of the pumpkin or squash. That calls for the expansive flavours of a full-bodied new-world white or, if your prefer a red, the mellowness of an old-fashioned Rioja or the sweet fruit of a garnacha or zinfandel.
Friendly: Silbador Rapel Valley Gewürztraminer 2013, or Navajas Crianza Rioja 2010
Premier League: The Liberator 'Butch and the Sunrise Kid', Western Cape 2013, or Uvaggio Lodi Zinfandel 2012
Director's Box: Heggies Chardonnay 2011 or Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2012