Summer always feels so magic; and then Autumn feels so wild and tactile- the crunchy leaves on the ground and low sunshine at either end of the day, sparkling on the floor and walls. But inevitably, all that excitement ends and suddenly we've arrived at Winter- and it hits me like a slap in the face. It's terrifying.
So, I relish Autumn while it lasts. I savour the fact that I feel like soup and a hot pot of curry (before we're eating the same old thing on repeat every day).
We've got a patch of wild fennel by the creek that serves us well over Summer, and in the Autumn we collect its seeds. That's where the inspiration for this curry came from- the wild fennel and the eggplant that's in season and pairs with it so perfectly. It's flavoursome and warming, but not terribly spicy- it's one that I am able to serve up to a wide range of people at the dinner table (yep, my kids included).
This meal can easily be frozen and reheated, it's a meal I tend to put on in the afternoon and cook slowly so the eggplant is perfectly soft and tender.
Will serve 4 hungry adults.
P A S T E :
This paste can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. I make this amount, use half to make this curry and keep the rest for a soup paste or meat rub a few days down the track.
2 Tbsp ground cumin
4 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground fennel seeds
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 heaped Tbsp tomato paste
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp fresh chilli/chilli flakes [optional, or add more to taste. Whatever it takes to keep your crowd happy]
Stir together, it should make a thick but mixable paste. If using later, store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge, this will keep for at least a week.
T H E R E S T :
1 Tbsp neutral cooking oil
1 pumpkin, cut into 2 cm chunks
1 Tbsp neutral cooking oil
1 eggplant, cut into 2cm chunks
2 x 400g tinned tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
400ml coconut cream or milk
1-2 Tbsp fish sauce (or to taste)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Toasted cashews, coconut and shredded coriander to decorated
M E T H O D :
Heat oven to 120°C / 250°F / gas mark 2.
Scatter pumpkin on a roasting dish, drizzle with oil and toss pumpkin to toast each piece. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven, turning occasionally until pumpkin is soft. They can sit in there for an hour or two, just check in on them from time to time. If you're pumpkin is cooked before you're ready to serve, you can remove from oven and cover with foil to keep warm (or return to oven 10-20 minutes before eating to reheat).
Heat second measure of oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
Add paste, stirring until aromatic. Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add eggplant and leave to do it's thing- simmer until eggplant is soft and absolutely saturated in sauce. This can take some time, I like to walk away and let mine simmer for an hour or so- but if you're strapped for time, crank up the heat and have it ready sooner than that- just keep a watchful eye it doesn't burn.
Add coconut cream/milk, fish sauce and brown sugar and check it's to your liking (you can always add more salty or sweet).
Serve over jasmine or basmati rice mounds (I like to cook my rice with a little bit of shredded coconut).
Finally, sprinkle over hot pumpkin, cashews, coconut and coriander as desired.