Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Squash, Mushroom & Spinach Curry - #recipe @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE: I spotted the original version of this recipe in the New York Times food blog, which credits Madhur Jaffrey and calls it “comfort food, Indian-style.” It is that. It’s also great for fall or winter, as a one-dish meal. And despite the list of ingredients, it’s as easy as it is yummy.

Now, hang on a minute, please, before you shy away, thinking a curry will be too hot in your mouth and too irritating to your tummy. Some are, some aren’t. I chose to use a jalapeno, the mildest of the green chiles; it’s only slightly “hotter” than a green bell pepper. You’ll see in the photos that I cut the peppers in half and cooked them without further chopping. The original recipe advised that as a way to release the flavor without making the sauce too spicy. They did cook thoroughly, and became quite mild, but were awkward to eat, so next time, we’ll chop them in decent-sized chunks for the same effect. If heat concerns you, use one instead of two; you could also leave the halves whole and discard them before serving. The cumin and the pinch of cayenne add a little heat, true, but the amounts are small and what they mainly add, in my opinion, is flavor.

And we’re all about flavor, right?

The squash, coconut milk, and rice or rice noodles also mellow the flavor beautifully. (The cut butternut squash many groceries sell in fall and winter is perfect.) The original called for black mustard seeds, but we had yellow, which are larger and less pungent; use whichever you have or can find. We also added the spinach in place of the curry leaves the original called for—not something we can find around here, and it does need something green.

Use a mix of mushrooms. We used button, crimini, and shiitake; baby portobellos or wild mushrooms would be good, too.

Winter Squash, Mushroom and Spinach Curry

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (we used canola)
12 ounces butternut or other winter squash, peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 small whole jalapeños, seeded and chopped in 1-inch pieces (see note above)
3 medium shallots or 1 small red onion, finely diced
½ teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch of cayenne
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 pound mushrooms, mixed, trimmed, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1-1/2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
cilantro sprigs, for garnish

basmati rice (1 cup dry, cooked) or rice noodles

In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add squash cubes in one layer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes, letting cubes brown slightly, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to lift squash out, and set aside.

Add shallots to skillet and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add mustard seeds and cumin, and cook about 30 seconds. Then add garlic, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, and chiles. Stir well and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add mushrooms to pan, season with salt and toss to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Return squash to pan. Add the spinach, stir in coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes. If mixture looks dry, thin with a little water. Taste and season with salt.

Just before serving, stir in lime juice. Place the rice or noodles in the bottom of a warmed, shallow serving dish. Add the curry and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serves 4-6.

"Budewitz's finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan." --- Kirkus Reviews

From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink,  available in trade paper, e-book, and audio):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. We love curries. The coconut milk adds a wonderful element to the flavor.
    Cumin as "hot"? Interesting. I don't think of it that way. Just flavorful.
    Isn't pre-cut butternut squash wonderful?

    1. I'm with you on the cumin, but have discovered some people taste heat in it. Part of my mission is to encourage people to not fear heat and focus on flavor. And yes, yes on the pre-cut butternut squash! So easy and so many great ways to use it.