Quinoa Pilaf with Pumpkin-Chickpea curry

This fragrant, multi-textured dish is a perfect mid-week dinner. It comes together quickly and uses mostly pantry staples, yet is luxuriant enough to make the meal feel special. You can be versatile with the ingredients: feel free to swap the pumpkin for spinach or potatoes, the pistas with almonds, the date with raisins and the quinoa with basmati or brown rice. I love the warmth and flavour it has, whilst still being light and nutritious - a perfect combination for the cooler evenings coming up. The leftovers also make a great packed lunch!

For the curry:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped (feel free to substitute with drained, canned tomatoes)
250 gm Hokkaido pumpkin, cut into bite-sized cubes
250 gm cooked chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed (1 425 gm can)
1 large clove garlic and a 1/2 cm cube ginger, ground into a fine paste
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1 heaped teaspoon ghee or 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
Fine-grain sea salt

For the pilaf:
1/3 cup quinoa, washed, rinsed and cooked *
1 date, pitted and finely chopped
A small handful of pistachios, shelled and coarsely crushed (about 20 in all)
1/2 teaspoon ghee

In a large nonstick pan, heat the ghee on low. Add the cumin seeds and heat until they start gently crackling, about 30 seconds. Stir in the onions and increase the heat to medium. Once translucent, add the ginger-garlic mix and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and mix together, cooking until the tomatoes have broken down, about 3 - 5 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture dry out too much though. Add the spice powders - turmeric, coriander, cumin and chilli, if using, and stir everything together to combine. Once the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the pumpkin and mix well. A minute later, add in the chickpeas and combine well with the vegetable and spice mix. Allow the mixture to cook for a minute or two and then add 1 cup of water. Mix together, add salt to taste, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Allow to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is almost done. Add the yogurt and chopped coriander, stir through and cover again. Cook for a minute or two until the pumpkin is tender, check again for salt and re-season if necessary. Turn off the heat and let the curry sit for a minute or two.

Whilst the curry is cooking, heat 1/2 teaspoon of ghee in a small pan on a low flame. Add the crushed pistachios and chopped date, followed by the quinoa after about 30 seconds. Stir through and allow the flavours to gently come together. Turn off the heat after about 2 minutes.

Divide the quinoa between two plates, heap with the chickpea and pumpkin curry and garnish with a couple of fresh coriander leaves. Enjoy hot, with a crisp glass of white wine!

Serves two.

* Rinse 1/3 cup quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer. In a medium saucepan heat the quinoa and 1 1/2 - 2 cups water until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when you can see the curlique in each grain, and it is tender with a bit of pop to each bite. Drain any extra water and set aside.



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