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Pumpkin Malai Kari

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

by Meera Sodha from East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing (Fig Tree).

As featured on Simon Mayo's radio show on Scala Radio on 26th October 2019.

Once upon a time, pumpkins were the preserve of fairy tales and Halloween. They were admired for their ability to make great props, not for their ability to make great dishes. Today, things are different. Varieties such as Crown Prince and Delica grace farmers’ markets, and their nutty, honey flavours make them a powerful weapon for the home cook. I have loosely based this recipe on the Bengali malai kari, a dish made with sweet onions, garam masala and rich coconut milk. Warming, hearty and sharpened with a little lime for freshness, it’s best eaten scooped on to the softest naan you can find. Note: If you can’t get hold of a good pumpkin, use butternut squash.

Thank you must go Farmer Copley's Farm Shop for supplying the resplendent pumpkins and gourds. You can pick your own up until Halloween.

Nigel chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens

Serves 4 as a main

1.2kg pumpkin, such as Delica

rapeseed oil


2 large red onions, finely chopped

2cm ginger, peeled and finely grated

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml tomato passata (or 1Ž2 a tin of tomatoes, whizzed with a stick blender until smooth)

2 tsp ground cumin

3Ž4 tsp ground cinnamon

13Ž4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

11Ž2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp caster sugar

600ml (11Ž2 tins) coconut milk

1 lime, cut into wedges

Optional: toasted flaked almonds or fresh coriander, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/400°F/gas 6 and line two baking trays with baking paper or foil.

Without peeling, cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out and discard the seeds and cut the flesh into thin crescents, no more than 2cm wide.

Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, then pop them on the trays in one layer.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, turning the pumpkin halfway through, until tender and blackening at the edges.

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan over a medium flame and, when hot, add the onions.

Cook for 15 minutes until really soft, then add the ginger and garlic.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the tomato and cook for a further6 minutes, until rich and paste-like.

Add 11/2 teaspoons of salt, the spices and the teaspoon of sugar, stir to mix, then add the coconut milk.

Mix well and heat through until it’s thick and bubbling.

Taste, squeeze in a little lime and taste again, adjusting the salt, sugar or lime juice as you wish.

To serve, pour the sauce on to each plate, and top with a few wedges of pumpkin. Sprinkle over some toasted almonds or fresh coriander if you like, and serve with naan bread or as Nigel discovered a Pretzel works just as well!

What is Scala Radio?

Scala Radio is a brand-new entertainment radio station that breaks the mould of classical music in the UK, fronted by presenters Simon Mayo, Angellica Bell, Mark Kermode and Chris Rogers. Playing familiar masters from Mozart and Holst to surprising new works from living composers like Karl Jenkins, Rebecca Dale and Thom Yorke, film scores and musicals, along with performances by bright young artists like Alexis Ffrench, Jess Gillam and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Scala Radio is an exciting discovery of classical music for modern life.

Featuring music that may be a surprising discovery or re-discovery, championed by presenters with personalities, and showcasing classical music through the lens of modern life.

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