Thursday, January 3, 2013

Curried Pork and Pumpkin Stew

Small Bowl of Curry with Spoon
Sunshiny Color & Spicy Flavor

Recipe adapted from Sweet Onions and Sour Cherries

Happy 2013! Lest you think that I was dissing the humble pumpkin in our pumpkin vs. butternut squash pie smackdown on Christmas, I offer you this pumpkin-based winter stew. True that butternut is easier to make into pies than pumpkin, looks brighter, tastes sweeter, and is preferred by most diners in desserts. However, since pumpkin is more earthy and substantial, it’s perfect for savory dishes. Pumpkin compliments other vegetables and meats. Its flavor and texture marry well with curry ingredients to create a satisfying and spicy potage. Butternut is just too sweet and solid to perform the magic that creates this effect. Curried pumpkin stew is an antidote to cold and dark winter weather, warming both in degrees Celsius and Scoville heat units.

All Veggie and Spice Ingredients
All This and Pork Too
This recipe originates from Sweet Onions and Sour Cherries: A Cookbook for Market Day. Oddly enough, I knew nothing about Sweet Onions until my friends Kelly and James turned me on to this recipe. Although no longer in print, this resource, by Jeanette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer, seems ideal for cooks who want to add more fruits and vegetables to their diets. Various fruits and veggies are individually showcased, with instructions on how to select, store, and best use them followed by easy recipes. I’m going to order one, as James suggested.

Onions & Celery with Turmeric, Cayenne, and Cumin
Spices Up Close & Personal
I did make a few alterations to the recipe, as usual. I eliminated dredging the pork in flour before browning, which allowed me to cut the amount of oil used to sauté in half. True, it takes longer to brown the pork, but the time passes quickly if you admire the future sleekness of your hips and belly in the meantime. At Kelly’s suggestion I doubled the amount of pumpkin (to accommodate a 2 lb. sugar pie pumpkin) and increased the garlic. On my own whim I increased the amounts of cumin, and hubby Bruce ground it up fresh from seeds. I also increased the amount of turmeric and ginger, added celery, and changed the cooking method slightly. I eliminated the cilantro garnish, but you could use either cilantro or parsley if you have it on hand.

Cooking Curry in Pan; Zucchini has just been added
Zucchini is Essential
I tried hard to eliminate the zucchini because it’s out of season. I added celery, but that needs to cook longer than zucchini, which is added last as a bit of green zippiness. The celery cannot recreate this zippiness in flavor, texture, or color. Perhaps a similar zip can be achieved with in-season spinach. Or you could make this dish in autumn, when late-season zucchini and early-season pumpkin harvests intersect. Or you could, as I did, just forgive the use of a summer ingredient in a winter stew. We might even want to celebrate the zucchini now, as it’s so unassuming, ubiquitous, and even maligned during summertime.

Serve this stew over rice, millet, or quinoa, or on its own in a bowl with a soup spoon. It’s pleasingly spicy, if you like a fair amount of fire. If not, reduce the amount of cayenne. If you really like things hot, I dare you to increase it. Enjoy!

Individual serving of curried pork and pumpkin stew
Hot & Hearty
Curried Pork and Pumpkin Stew
serves ~8

1 large onion
2 – 3 stalks celery (~2 oz.)
4 cloves garlic
1½ tbsp. peeled, grated ginger root
2 lb. pie pumpkin
2 medium potatoes (1 lb.)
2 lbs. boneless pork butt or shoulder
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and fresh-ground black pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2½ tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2½ cups chicken stock
2 large carrots (~6 oz.)
2 zucchini (~9 oz.)
Cilantro or parsley (optional garnish)

Peel and dice onion into ½ inch pieces. Slice celery into ½ inch pieces. Mince garlic. Grate ginger.

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds and stringy pulp. Peel halves and cut into 1-inch dice. You will have about 4 cups. Scrub and dice potatoes; you will have about 3 cups.

Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Heat olive oil in a large shallow pan or electric frying pan on medium high heat (~325 degrees F.) Add pork and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Brown pork on all sides, about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove to plate and set aside.

Meanwhile scrub and slice carrots about 3/8 inch thick. You will have about 1¼ cups. Cut zucchini into sticks: slice into 1½ inch pieces, then cut each piece lengthwise into 4 or 6 sticks. You’ll have about 1 cup.

When pork is browned and removed to platter, sauté onion and celery in the same pan until they start to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, cayenne, cumin, turmeric, and salt. Sauté for another 4 minutes, stirring constantly to blend and cook spices.

Add pumpkin, potato, carrot, and reserved pork. Heat and stir until pork looks evenly coated with onion/spice mixture. Add the stock and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add zucchini to stew. Simmer another 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt or cayenne if needed. Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley sprigs if desired.

Whole Pumpkin with Basket of Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Cayenne, & Turmeric
It Starts with a Pumpkin & Some Spice

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