Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lamb and Roasted Butternut Squash Curry [Zack]

Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines.  I got introduced to it pretty late in life - in college by my Indian exchange student friends.  I've been making up for lost time ever since.

The first dish I ordered was the ubiquitous Butter Chicken.  I loved how silky-smooth the sauce was, the complexity of the spice mixture, and the kick of heat at the end of each bite.  I quickly learned that Butter Chicken was not the only good dish that the Indian culture had to offer and quickly expanded to favorites such as Saag Paneer, Dhal soup, Chana Masala, Lamb Vindaloo, etc.

If you like butter chicken, this recipe is the next logical step to branch out.  The butternut squash and coconut milk create a very smooth curry that feels like you are riding in a luxury sedan.  The cardamom spice sings over top the flavors and really gives it an interesting twist.  If you prefer pumpkin, feel free to substitute it for the squash.  If it's too intimidating finding and grinding those spices, you can always use a curry paste from the grocery store.  You can add spice directly proportional with the amount of chest hair your dinner guests will have.

This curry is dedicated to Gita Pitel - thanks for teaching me how to cook Indian food!


Pre-heat your oven to 400F / 200C.  Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and coat lightly with olive oil or peanut oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast until caramelized - about 30 minutes

Next, while your squash is roasting, you'll want to toast your spices for your curry paste.  In a frying pan over medium heat with no oil, add the cumin seeds, dried chiles, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, anise seeds, and seeds from 7 cardamom pods.  Toast until you can smell the spices and they are slightly browned, about 5 mins on med heat.  Make sure to shake the pan around so they they toast evenly and don't burn

Grind them up in a mortar and pestle.

Add in roughly chopped minced garlic, ginger, and birdseye chiles (take out the seeds for less spice).  

Mash to a paste.

Cube the lamb shoulder, cutting off as much fat and silver skin as your sanity will allow.  Alternatively, you can save 5-10 minutes by buying cubed lamb.

Brown the cubes in batches in 2 T of oil in a large pot.  Don't over-crowd the pot or else you won't get proper browning.  Transfer each batch to a plate.  

Once you are finished cooking the lamb, add your diced onions to the empty pot.  Cook for a  few mins in the lamb goodness. 

Your squash should be about finished by now.  Pull it out of the oven and keep it nearby so you can scoop it out into your soup pot with a spoon.

Add your curry paste to the onions and cook for 2 more mins until fragrant.  Watch out – the spice may get into the air and pepper spray the room if you add a lot!  

Add 1/2 of your roasted squash into the pot along with your chicken stock.  Let this come up to a gentle simmer and then blend the whole thing with a stick blender or in your food processor.  This will smooth out your sauce and provide a nice base for the curry.

Start your rice.  Toast 1T of cumin seeds in 1T of oil or butter before adding the rice according to the directions on the box.

Add the lamb back in.  Also add in your curry leaves and the rest of the squash to the pot.  Give it a good stir.  You'll get a pleasant contrast between the smooth and creamy base and the chunks of squash. 

Keep stirring for about 10 minutes, add your turmeric powder, coriander powder, and taste to see if you want to add any chile spice (lal murchu).  Adjust the salt content as well.  Simmer for about 10 more minutes to thicken it up.  The last step is to add the coconut milk into the curry.  This will take it over the top!

Check one last time for salt and spice content.  Serve over some freshly-made cumin rice.  For garnish, dice an onion and sprinkle lemon juice over the top of it.  

Instead of the below spices, you can use a red curry paste from the grocery store.

1 2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cubed
2 cups of cubed pumpkin, roasted
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 medium onion, diced
2 inches ginger
2 large cloves garlic
2 birdseye chiles
2/3 tsp cumin seeds
4 dried chiles
1/3 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/3 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 tsp anise seeds
1/3 tsp cinnamon
7 cardamom pods (only the seeds)
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground coriander
10 curry leaves
1/2 cup coconut milk

1 cup basmanti or brown rice
1 T cumin seeds

1 medium onion, diced
juice from 1/2 of a lemon

Song to cook that curry:  James Brown - the payback


  1. That Gita Pitel sounds like a classy lady.

  2. This is something I made recently using leftover butternut squash and carrot, blended with spice, chiilis and onions, added the mix to fried onions, cubed lamb and then added fried capsicum and tomatoes at the end. Also add fresh coriander and also curry leaves. Kind of a rogan josh. We are lucky in having not only a tandoori take away but also a halal store right at the end of our street, selling absolutely everything needed, at probably 50% what you would pay in a normal supermarket. There is a huge Pakistani, Iranian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Algerian, here so the only way you can avoid knowing how to cook amazing food is if you're a total Xenophobe!