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A 20-Minute Yellow Curry to Gussy Up Root Vegetables

February 27, 2018

I’d like to be the kind of cook who pounds her own curry paste in a mortar and pestle. Thai cooking experts who assert that blenders and food processors steal invaluable flavors from a curry are probably right. Still, I’m pleased as anything to lean on the modern convenience of canned, imported curry paste, so I can enjoy a bowl of a vegetable curry any night of the week.

For me, a pot of curry is not just a craving but a necessity. Every 10 to 14 days, my produce drawer contains enough lone carrots, partial onions, and assorted stems and roots to signal that it’s time for either a stir-fry or, simpler yet, this 20-minute yellow curry.

It's a necessity, not a craving. Photo by Bobbi Lin

But it’s not all leftovers, this curry. Its backbone of meaty butternut squash turns a bunch of scraps into a veritable one-pot supper. Winter squash and coconut milk may not sound like a natural match, but from reading Thai cookbooks, I've gleaned that pumpkin is a common ingredient in many types of curry. The sweetness and meaty texture of winter squash varieties, like butternut, is a natural fit for a coconut milk curry.

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Sliced, instead of cubed, the squash simmers to tenderness quickly along with up to two additional vegetables (about eight cups total). It’s a great way to enlist second-string winter offerings, and I selected parsnips and turnips for this recipe because I never seem to use either of them enough before spring time’s greens lure me away from root crops altogether.

To be honest, I have used everything from kohlrabi to broccoli stems, sweet potatoes to cauliflower. But it’s simplest when the vegetables don’t need different cooking times and can be plopped into the simmering coconut milk all at once. I cover the pot, set the timer for 15 minutes, and walk away.

Curry paste is a salvation for those of us who dabble in Thai cooking. If you don’t have yellow curry paste, you can substitute the same amount of red curry paste plus 2 teaspoons ground turmeric. Additional flavorings, including ginger and garlic, freshen up the flavors that have been cooped up in a can. And the optional dose of chopped dried mango in this recipe stands in for additional sugar to balance out the curry’s heat. Feel free to use about 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar or brown sugar instead and adjust to your taste. Garnished with toasted cashews and fresh basil leaves, this curry stands alone—yes, on some busy nights, I don't even bother to plug in the rice cooker to make a pot of jasmine rice. And no one is the wiser.

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I wake up thinking, What's for dinner? The answer comes from the stocking as much local food as I can store, buying dry goods in bulk and shopping for seasonal produce. Pickling and canning, sourdough bread baking and grilling are also key parts of the mix as I improvise meals for my family.

1 Comment

AntoniaJames February 27, 2018
Wow. Must try this. I cannot wait. ;o)