America seems to fall in love with pumpkin all over again each autumn, and the craze is even more apparent after having spent the holiday season abroad last year. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that it took a post-Halloween pumpkin purge giveaway at Trader Joe’s for me to start cooking with it this season, but no matter; I’d like to think this dish makes up for my slow start, utilising both the flesh and the seeds to showcase the tender sweetness and nutty crunch that are so well-loved.
The Republic of Mauritius is a fascinating little island nation with an unlikely scramble of culinary influences. Its claim to fame is the now-extinct dodo bird, but for those who haven’t heard of it, it’s east of Madagascar and was most thoroughly colonised by the French, who left their food and the Creole language. After the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, indentured labourers from all across India brought their cuisines with them; at the end of the century, immigrants from the south-eastern part of China did the same, introducing rice and noodles as new staples.
The mix of African, French, Indian, and Chinese influences are adapted in each region and household, using local ingredients and evolving into its own national cuisine that still pays homage to historical roots and demographic ancestry… in essence, this is the same idea behind Wandercrush.
The first time I saw the recipe for a Mauritian lima bean curry, I kept looking for the long list of spices…turns out the most authentic Mauritian curries are more like what we’d call an herby stew, its flavour profile defined by thyme and only sharing the ginger and garlic paste with what we identify more readily as Indian curries.
Lima beans are almost always imported in this part of the country, so I substituted another white bean—cannelini, navy, great northern, etcetera will work just fine, although I’ll admit that I missed the surface area and creaminess of butter beans and lima beans. Chunks of sweet pumpkin made up for it, though, and it’s a wonderful marriage of ingredients for a cold-weather comfort stew to serve over a bed of nutty brown rice.
Mauritian Bean Curry with Pumpkin
- 200g dry white beans (Lima, Cannellini, etc.), soaked overnight
- 1 bayleaf
- 1 clove garlic, whole
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cm ginger, minced
- handful sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 T dried)
- 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 300g pumpkin, cubed
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- oil to drizzle
- thyme sprig
- dash of salt
- dash of cayenne (optional)
Drain the soaked beans and cover with fresh water. Add the garlic clove, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover partially, and cook until tender, adding more water as needed.
Heat some oil in a pot, sautéing onions and thyme until the onions have turned translucent. Add garlic and ginger, stirring constantly until fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and a dash of salt until it cooks down into a sauce.
Add cooked beans and pumpkin cubes, adding just enough bean-cooking liquid to achieve desired consistency and thickness. Cover and simmer until pumpkin is fully cooked, checking for salt and adjusting the seasonings as desired. Remove any thyme branches, which should now be bare.
Meanwhile, roast the seeds from your pumpkin. You can do this in the oven, but I did so on the stove-top to keep an eye on them. Drizzle oil in a pan and add a fresh sprig of thyme infuse some flavour while it heats up. Remove thyme and add some salt and cayenne seasoning, stirring seeds until they’re crisp, golden, and fragrant.
Serve the curry stew over brown rice and garnish with some fresh thyme sprigs and roasted seeds for crunch.