Dark matter: Cajun pumpkin casserole

pumpkin

Blogging is tough in winter. By the time I get home from work, it’s too dark to take photos. By the time it’s light enough to take photos, the dish is no longer at its best, visually at least—I, for one, find that stews, curries and casseroles usually taste better the next day.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that this dish is considerably more delicious than I could make it look in a picture at 7am yesterday morning. Hence the lack of picture so far. I’ll try again at the weekend. It’s my first ‘free’ weekend for what seems like months, so I’m hoping to get the blog well and truly back on track.

Last weekend, we went to the Ardennes to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday. It’s a stunning place, that does a great line in charcuterie and Trappist beers. We stocked up on both.

I’ve been keeping an idle eye out for something to do with my various squash, so I was thrilled when I spotted a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin and Coconut Casserole in Waitrose magazine. Only, when I told the husband what was on the menu, his first question was whether there was any way of working some meat into it. Men. You’d think I was trying to starve him. Luckily I had a ‘piquant’ salami to hand fresh from the Ardennes. Also, the original recipe called for a ‘Cajun spice mix’. I am not about to start buying any more spice mixes when I have a cupboard full of spices at home, so I improvised.

Serves: 8

A pack of shallots, peeled but left whole

2 fennel bulbs, cut into chunks

1 spicy salami or chorizo, sliced

3 peppers (preferably red, but I had green lying around, so I used those), de-seeded and cut into chunks

6 cloves garlic, crushed

The flesh of one small eating pumpkin, cut into chunks

The flesh of one butternut squash, cut into chunks

A good sprig of thyme

1 chicken stock cube

Oil for frying

1 tin coconut milk

1 tin chopped tomatoes

A good tbsp tomato puree

100ml single cream

For the Cajun spice mix:

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp basil

1 tsp fennel seeds

A good pinch of sea salt

1 tsp crushed chilli

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp mustard seeds

A good grind of black pepper

Crush the spices in a pestle and mortar. In a large casserole, fry the shallots and fennel in oil for 6-8 minutes until they take on a nice caramel colour. Set aside, and fry the peppers and salami until the salami has browned and the peppers’ skin starts to blister. Scrape in the crushed garlic, then pop the shallots etc back in, together with the squash and pumpkin, sprinkle over spices then stir until everything is well coated.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, coconut milk, thyme and 150ml water, then crumble over the stock cube, give it all a good mix and leave to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn the heat off, stir in the cream and serve with some delicious crusty bread.

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