This super spice stew is sure to satisfy you and that Old Man Winter.Jump to Recipe
Winter hit with full force here in Colorado last week. I was on top of Green Mountain when it happened, snow blowing, ice freezing, and wind churning all around me. I was absolutely unprepared. Not just in terms of what was in my backpack; my body wasn’t quite ready to brace against the cold yet either. But, it turns out, my pantry had everything I needed to recover from winter’s first blow in the form of this Butternut + Kale Curry Stew.
My hoarded squash supply is butternut strong. I had a crisper drawer full of kale that quickly shifted from salad to soup duty. A can of coconut milk and a quick homemade spice mix later, and this keeper of a curry stew recipe was born.
There are proverbial millions of reasons I’m excited to share it with you. It’s pretty effing delicious for one. But also because stews, and winter cooking, in general, conjures images of slaving over the stove all day. This Butternut + Kale Curry Stew is the opposite of that. The stew comes together in the time it takes to pour a drink and take a shower; the heavy lifting (er, simmering) unfolding without supervision. It serves boatload of veggies in a single full bowl, reheats easily and plays well on it’s own or with whatever protein you fancy.
I’m laughing when I type that winter literally gave me everything to make this butternut + kale curry stew. I didn’t have to think that hard about it – all the ingredients were just…there. And by that, I mean they were growing in the ground near where I live. Navigating the grocery store, with one million options from all across the globe, the answer to “what’s for dinner” would be harder. But my CSA is bursting with vegetables that love to be cooked – both. slowly, and quickly. And when I think about it that way, a big salad is the opposite of what Old Man Winter wants to have for dinner. But quick stews like this are the jam.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any forethought about the storm. Dark skies told me that there was a VERY strong chance I would return home iced to the bone. So, I took a few minutes to prep onions and butternut squash before leaving, popping them in the fridge while I hiked. When I returned home from the trail, I started my stew and it cooked while I took a hot shower.
A few weeks back, I started a much anticipated formal education into the foundations of Ayurveda. This 6000-year old medicinal system started in India, and champions food as medicine. Ayurveda suggests that tuning into the seasons, senses and self is crucial to optimal well-being (and, yes, performance.)
Ayurvedic philosophy has a lot to say about the power of spices in our foods. In Western cuisine, spices are the way that we “make foods more fun.” But in Ayurvedic cooking, spices have potent healing properties and sourcing them is just as important as any other ingredient.
Readily available ground spices only last a year if stored properly, while whole spices can last up to 3-4 years. Many of the spice mixes you buy on the grocery store shelves have traveled great distances, and are stale by the time they are put out for display, which means they’ve also lost their superpowers that help us to keep our gut health high, our digestive fire hot, and our senses sated with flavor.
To combat this, I buy spices in whole form (Diaspora. Co., SOS Chefs, Miracle Plum and Savory Spice Shop are my favorite sources,) then grind them into mixes myself. For this stew, I made a grounding masala with perky notes of clove, cumin and ginger designed to literally calm the senses and the stomach, while keeping digestive fire high and hot. It’s a 2-minute kitchen project you never knew you needed, but once you taste your stew you’ll be STOKED. (If you’re looking for more homemade spice inspiration, I shared this five-spice mix on Instagram as well!)
Flavors are FUN, yes, but they also are the mechanisms by which our bodies nourish themselves. Flavors basically tell our bodies what the food is giving us – on a nutritional and energetic level. Our bodies then prepare enzymes to break those components down, assimilate them, and turn them into fuel for our vibrant lives. We can’t eat just one flavor and get all of the things we need, so learning to track the flavors in our foods helps us to be sure that we’re really getting all of the things we need in our meals. This particular recipe has five of six flavors. The more flavors we can enjoy in any meal or food, the happier and more balanced our bodies will be. If you’re wanting to learn more about how the flavors we eat fuel our bodies – energetically and nutritively, check out this little blog post.
This super spice stew is sure to satisfy you and that Old Man Winter.
In an electric coffee grinder or spice grinder, combine all of the whole and ground spices. Pulse the mixture until it becomes a fine powder. Transfer the spice mix to a jar with a tight fitting lid and store out of direct sunlight. Clean out your coffee grinder by wiping it out with a clean towel or placing 1 Tbsp uncooked rice in the grinder and running it. The rice will clean the grinder!
Heat the ghee or olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook 5 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the ginger and butternut squash and cook until the squash begins to brown and grows fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the grounding masala and cayenne, stir to coat the vegetables.
Add 3 cups water (or chicken/vegetable broth.) Season a nice fat pinch of salt and turn up the heat a bit to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the squash are tender.
Stir in the coconut milk and kale, cook 5 minutes. Then, remove from the heat.
Set Instant pot to sauté. Add the ghee and onion and cook 5 minutes until soft. Add the ginger and butternut squash and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the masala and cayenne and cook another minute.
Add 3 cups water. Season generously with salt. Cover, select the manual setting, and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
Once done cooking, use the quick release function and release the steam. Set the Instant pot to sauté. Stir in the coconut milk and kale, and cook 5 minutes. Turn the instant pot off.
Divide rice (if using) among bowls and ladle the stew over the top. Top with fresh cilantro, pomegranate seeds, chili oil/chili crunch and maybe naan on the side. Enjoy!