Jamaican Tropical Veggie Curry
Serves 4 to 6
If you love vegetable curries, making a Jamaican-style curry full of tropical vegetables is an essential part of your curry education. You’ll identify immediately with the golden coconut-infused broth, but digging in you’ll appreciate the differences; the floral heat of tropical chiles, the warmth of allspice and the familiar herbal aroma of fresh thyme. And then there’s the vegetables: starchy green plantains, mild chayote and tender tropical pumpkin such as calabaza squash.
But maybe the most essential ingredient in this curry is the Jamaican-style curry powder. It’s not the same as a typical supermarket curry powder or Madras-style, but it’s also very easy and fun to make at home. If you prefer to buy curry powder, Grace’s is a commonly found Jamaican curry powder, featuring allspice and garlic, two essential elements in this spice blend.
In most large North American cities in with a substantial Caribbean or Latin American population tropical produce is surprisingly inexpensive and easy to come by, so make the most of it with this surprisingly light and wholesome stew. Serve with any Indian flatbread, boiled rice or Island Coconut Brown Rice & Beans.
-Chayotes are also known as Mirlitons (it’s French Creole name) or christophenes. Next to plantains and yuca they’re a fairly a common item wherever Latin produce is sold. Chayote are really the cutest little squash. Pear-shaped, bright green and puckered up on one end like your granny after she’s removed her dentures, Chayote are a fixture in Latin American tropical and Caribbean cuisine. They’re usually crazy cheap too.
-Calabaza squash is a tropical pumpkin, so huge it’s typically sold in plastic wrapped pre-sliced chunks. Look for it wherever plantains are sold.
-Whole habeñero chile peppers simmer in the curry will add plenty of heat, but if you prefer you may very finely mince them (wear gloves if you want to be cautious with super chiles like these) and fry along with the onion. If you’re new to habeñeros, using half or a quarter of a finely minced chile (without the seeds) is a good way to play with the fire, just a little (instead of tossing whole chiles into the curry).
- 1 pound tropical pumpkin
- 2 green plantains
- 2 chayote squash or 1 medium sized zucchini
- 1 leek or 3 large scallions
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1 cup coconut milk, full fat or light
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 6 springs fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
- 1 to 2 habeñero chile peppers, left whole and poked with the tip of knife a few times
- 1 tablespoon lime juice or more to taste
1. With a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel the pumpkin and then scoop and discard the pulp and seeds. Use a sharp paring knife to slice off the tips of the plantains, then run the tip in a straight line end to end through the skin of the plantain. Take the edge of butterknife, slide it into the score and use it to pry the skin off of the plantains. Cut the plantains into 1/2 thick slices on a diagonal. Slice the ends off of the chayotes, slice into quarters and slice each quarter into 1/2 inch thick slices (the soft seed is edible). Trim the roots and green end off the leek, rinse the inside to remove any grit, then slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces. If using scallions remove the roots and slice into 1 inch pieces. Slice the onion in half, then dice into large 1/2 inch chunks. Alright, you’ve survived the hardest part of this recipe, just chopping up the veggies.
2. In a heavy soup pot, melt the coconut oil over medium high heat. Stir in the onions and leeks and saute for 5 minutes or starting to soften. Stir in the garlic and fry another 2 minutes, then sprinkle the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and black pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth, coconut milk, and salt. Add the plantains and chayote, then poke the thyme sprigs and habeñero chile peppers into the broth. Increase heat to high and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally removing the cover and stirring a few times. After 30 minutes stir in the pumpkin, partially cover and simmer another 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Turn off heat, remove the chiles and thyme springs and stir in the lime juice. Cover and let the curry stand for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt or lime juice if desired. Serve hot with rice or bread.
-Add 2 cups of cooked, rinsed kidney, black eye peas or pigeon peas to this curry along with the pumpkin