a taste of yellow: chickpeas with pumpkin, lemongrass and coriander


one of the things i love most about cooking is when a combination of ingredients work together so beautifully they just sing. they come together with a set of flavours that make you smile as you slowly try the first mouthful, and then more quickly the second, third and fourth. the final mouthfuls are again eaten slowly so you can savour each and every nuance of flavour. unless of course there’s a little extra in the pan, in which case rapid eating means you can stake your claim to extras.

this happened with this absolutely superb nigel slater recipe for chickpeas with pumpkin (butternut squash in my case), lemongrass and coriander. the dish has, as he says, “the citrus hit of lemongrass, the warmth of mustard seed and the luxury of coconut milk.”

i ate this with a smile on my face while making appreciative murmurs with every mouthful. as i ate it, i was thankful there was enough in the pan for a second meal and i mentally checked my diary to see how quickly i could eat it again. i then thought about which foodie friends i needed to email about this dish and tell them to try it. and when i’d finished eating, i added all necessary the ingredients to the shopping list so i could make another batch next week.

this is what good cooking is about and it’s why i believe that people should learn to cook and take chances with new and different recipes, so that everyone can have the pleasure of food which, if the world ended, would have been a perfectly good final meal.

this wonderful yellow curry is my contribution to a taste of yellow, the annual event run by barbara from winos and foodies, to support livestrong day, which recognises the impact that cancer has on many of our lives. i’m incredibly lucky not to have been directly affected by cancer but many friends and family have been and i’m supporting this event with, and for, all of you.

nigel slater’s chickpeas with pumpkin, lemongrass and coriander (serves 4)

200g dried chickpeas soaked for several hours in mineral water (i used a 400g tin of already cooked chickpeas)

2 white onions

2 tablespoons sunflower oil (plus a little later)

4 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of ginger

3 large stalks of lemongrass (i only used 2 as that’s all i had)

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

the ground seeds of 6 cardamoms

2 hot, red chillies

500g peeled and seeded pumpkin (about 1kg unprepared weight) (i used butternut squash)

250ml vegetable stock

400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp yellow mustard seed

a large handful of coriander leaves

to serve:

basmati rice for 4

2 limes, halved

if using dried and soaked chickpeas, drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes till tender.

peel the onions and chop them quite finely. pour the oil into a deep casserole and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. meanwhile, peel the garlic and the ginger, remove any tough leaves from the lemongrass, then make all three into a rough paste in a food processor. stir into the softened onion and continue to cook. add the ground coriander and turmeric, then peel and lightly crush the cardamoms.

add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. keep the heat fairly low and on no account allow ingredients to brown.

chop the pumpkin into large chunks, though no larger than you would like to put in your mouth, then add to the pan, along with cooked chickpeas and the stock. bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle bubble till the pumpkin is tender. stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife - you don't want it to collapse.

stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. put a splash of oil into a nonstick pan and tip in the yellow mustard seeds. as soon as they start to pop add them to the pumpkin, together with the leaves of coriander. serve with the rice and the limes, halved, ready to squeeze over at the last minute.