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Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

A pumpkin! I’ve waited nearly a year to procure a pumpkin and make this curry, so it was just my luck when one arrived in our CSA delivery. I had made this curry once before and was eager to make it again, but unlike almost every other vegetable, pumpkins don’t just appear in grocery stores out of season. Pumpkins might be one of those last truly seasonal foods that you can’t purchase year-round, and they are a fitting way to welcome fall.

Pumpkin, like more typical butternut and acorn varieties, is an autumn squash. Pie (or small sugar) pumpkins, which are around two pounds, are sweeter and smaller than the carving variety and perfect for cooking. For pies, breads and desserts, you would roast or boil the pumpkin first, eventually turning it into a puree. But for this curry, sharpen your knife and go to town with the vegetable peeler. And don’t forget to save the seeds for a tasty snack (check back for a roasted pumpkin seed recipe soon).

I like this curry for several reasons. First, pumpkin’s neutral taste is a great match for the spices typical of Indian curry. Second, as the pumpkin and lentils cook, they thicken the curry, making it almost stew-like. While richly spiced, the curry has just a mild amount of heat—the perfect warmth to a cool night. And in case pumpkins are out of season, you could replicate the recipe with a butternut squash instead.

A quick note about the lentils. Not only do the red lentils look pretty with the chunks of orange squash, but they cook in less than half the time of brown lentils. If you can’t find red lentils in the store (double check in the bulk foods aisle), feel free to use brown lentils and add them when the pumpkin, broth and tomatoes are up to a boil to give them their 20-30 minutes of cooking time.

I serve the curry over basmati or brown rice, but it would also be delicious with the Indian bread, naan.

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

From Cooking Light, October 2006

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dried small red lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 lime wedges

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in pumpkin and next 7 ingredients (through jalapeño); cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pumpkin is just tender.

3. Stir in lentils; cook 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in salt and black pepper.

4. Ladle stew into individual bowls; sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 6.

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6 comments to Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

  • Jackie Pogue

    We just bought a pie pumpkin last weekend and I was trying to think of this recipe. I remember having it with you and it being delicious. I am going to make it soon!

  • Marguerite

    We made this the other night and it was delicious. We kicked up all of the spices just a titch. The flavors really melded over the next day or so as we ate the leftovers.

  • Stephanie

    I made this and just did a few changes– I didn’t have limes so I left that out. Also, I like my curry spicy, so I added a bit of extra spice and changed the technique a bit. My friend who cooks a lot of Pakistani food fries her onion and spices separately in a skillet, then adds them to the stew at the end. This means the onion doesn’t cook down as much and it keeps more flavor. Also, what is the best way to peel a pumpkin? I didn’t have a peeler, just a knife, but I feel I wasted a lot of it cutting off the peel bits.
    But THANKS for an awesome recipe!

  • […] will be the first to admit that I posted another squash (pumpkin) and red lentil recipe not that long ago, but this is very different. This is thick, rich (thanks to coconut milk) and […]