Paleo Pumpkin Erissery

I just cooked the last Seminole pumpkin from last year’s garden.

final pumpkin

That small pumpkin lasted almost a year with no soft spots. I’m not growing pumpkins this year but the pumpkins are coming en masse at the farmers’ market, so it was time for this one to go. I knew I wanted to do something special with my very last pumpkin, something just for me. I love South Indian food but no one else in the family does. I like it so much that I’m growing curry leaf plant! I started looking for South Indian pumpkin recipes and found a wonderful cooking blog with lots of Keralan recipes. I made a simplified variation of this pumpkin erissery recipe, using what I had in the house and leaving out the pulses. It’s a perfect sugar-free, grain-free breakfast when you just can’t eat another egg.

Paleo Pumpkin Erissery

1 small pumpkin, about a pound, or a 1-pound chunk of a larger pumpkin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 c coconut milk
2 tsp coconut oil*
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 small onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
4 small red Thai chiles
10 fresh curry leaves, sliced
salt & pepper to taste

Carefully peel the pumpkin using a sharp vegetable peeler. Knock off the stem, if there is one. Carefully pare away any remaining peel or stem using a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds, and then chop into largish slices. Size & shape don’t much matter. Combine the pumpkin, turmeric, salt, and cumin seeds in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, and add an inch or so of water. Put it on to boil, then cover and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, until the pumpkin is just cooked through. Add the coconut milk and lightly mash the pumpkin. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in the smallest frying pan you have. When the oil is shimmering, add the mustard seeds. Swirl them around until they start popping. Add the onions immediately and stir until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add the whole chiles and cook until the whole chiles start to crackle. Add the curry leaves and toss the mixture until it’s all crackling together and you can smell the curry leaves. This process is crucial to Indian cooking and called “tempering”. Dump the spice and onion mixture on top of the mashed pumpkin. Lightly mix together, taste and add salt/pepper if necessary, and serve.

*Coconut oil hack- Carefully open a can of good quality coconut milk (I buy Native Forest brand) and there’s usually a thick solid layer at one end or another. That is the part of the coconut milk with the highest oil content. If you scoop some of that out, you can use that solid fat to fry in. Be careful of the heat- because it’s unrefined, it will burn if the temperature is too high- but it leaves a wonderful toasted-coconut flavor that I really like. I don’t use much coconut oil in my cooking so I don’t want to spend the big bucks for quality coconut oil- I just use this.

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