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Mum's Special Pumpkin Curry

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

UPDATE 11/1/2019 : We submitted this curry in the Pumpkin Recipe contest at the Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove! We did not win unfortunately but many folks have told us that we should have won and that was good enough for me!

When I was young I absolutely detested eating any curry from the squash family of which there are many. I just did not enjoy mushy food at all. Apparently, when I was young I wrote an essay about how much I hated pawpaw (papaya) curry. My mum still laughs about this. Of course now that I am older and my palate has matured (ahem), I love these same curries! One of them is my mum's special pumpkin curry. It is perfectly cooked. Spicy, salty and sweet in all the right ways!

We usually get our pumpkins from my Nani's (maternal grandmother) garden. My grandparents love to garden. They used to own a sugarcane farm back in Fiji so gardening is sort of in their blood. Anyways, we usually get our whole pumpkins from them. We also sometimes get them from the local Asian store. They usually sell them in halves or quarters. It is important to pick a ripe or mature pumpkin. As in, the insides should be a beautiful orange and the outside also has to be a beautiful rustic orange. It is possible to make this recipe with a less ripe pumpkin too. It would not be as sweet but just as delicious. We typically make this pumpkin curry during special events. Especially weddings. It is a must-have during weddings. My Nani had collected quite a number of pumpkins to cook for a big prayer event she was hosting. This event of course was cancelled due to shelter-in-place orders so Nani had an excess of pumpkins and was giving them away. What do you do when you have an excess of pumpkins? You make pumpkin curry of course!

So the pumpkin rind tends to be tough. In order to cut through a whole pumpkin, you will need your sharpest big knife (yes, I don't know the names of all the knives). Carefully make an incision at the top and slice down the length of the pumpkin. Then do the same thing on the other side so the pumpkin is sliced in half.

I have also seen folks sort of throw the pumpkin on the ground in order to crack it open. So I suppose it is up to you whether you want to knife it or throw it on the ground with your superhuman strength (of course make sure that it doesn’t crack into too many pieces and there is some sort of covering on the floor to collect all the pieces in). Alright. Moving on. You have a sliced pumpkin half. This is usually makes enough pumpkin curry to feed a family of 4-6. You can wrap and store the other half in fridge for later use. Once you have a pumpkin half, clean out the pumpkin seeds and stringy bits out with a spoon. You can use the pumpkin seeds for something else if you want or these can be discarded. Then slice the pumpkin half into smaller crescent moon slices. These slices should then be peeled with a knife. Your basic potato peeler will not be able to handle pumpkin rinds.

Once peeled the pumpkin slices can be broken down into smaller cubes. About 1 x 1 inches should be good. The cubes will not be cubish exactly but you get the idea. The sizes should be as equal as possible otherwise the pieces will cook unevenly. If the pieces are too big, then it will take longer to cook and if they are too small, they will cook too quickly and the flavors will not incorporate as thoroughly as it should.

Once you have pumpkin pieces, you can wash them and have them drain in a colander. In the meantime, start your pot. Add oil. Once oil is heated, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Once this sputters, add diced onions and let edges brown. Add garlic and ginger and chilis if using. Let this cook until aromatic. About a minute or two. Add your pumpkin pieces, salt to taste, mix well and cover. Keep stirring to make sure pumpkin does not stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. The pumpkin will start to cook down. Once the edges start to look softer and the insides become tender, add water. The pumpkin pieces need to break down completely. The pumpkin will become mushier and mushier. It will boil and bubble away.

Once the pieces have become mushy, give it a taste and add a bit of sugar if needed. A bit of sugar is added to this dish to enhance the natural sweetness of the pumpkin. If your pumpkin is sweet enough then this is not necessary.