Roasted coconut, lime and tamarind curry

This recipe, like the sweet potato dhal in my first book, has become an instant classic in my house. I make this a lot, and each time I make it I still can’t believe how tasty it is. The squash, fennel seeds and tamarind come together to make a vibrant curry, and the toasted maple and lime coconut is the crowning glory (and a great little treat for snacking on in its own right too). If you are in a real rush you could use pre-cooked brown rice here. I usually keep some leftover rice in the freezer, but if you search out one without any additives, the pre-cooked pouches can be a speedy solution if you are in a fix.

*Please note there is a typo is the first edition of the book this appears in. Please follow the recipe below, using 50g coconut flakes. Unfortunately, despite many proof-reads and tests, sometimes mistakes do happen*

300g short-grain brown rice
1 red onion
coconut oil
2 cloves of garlic
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
1 red chilli
2 carrots
a large bunch of fresh coriander
400g butternut, kabocha or acorn squash
1 × 200g bag of spinach or other greens
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 × 400g tin of good chopped tomatoes
1 × 400g tin of coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
50g unsweetened coconut flakes or desiccated coconut
2 unwaxed limes
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Put a big saucepan on a medium heat. Get your rice on. Weigh out the rice in a mug or measuring jug, making a note of the level it comes up to, then rinse it in cold water and put it into the pan. Fill the mug to the same level with water and add to the pan, then repeat so you have double the volume of water to rice. Add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the red onion. Put a teaspoon of coconut oil into another large saucepan, add the onion and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes, until soft. Chop the garlic, ginger and chilli and put to one side. Peel the carrots and chop into 0.5cm rounds. Chop the coriander stalks, put the leaves to one side. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, ginger, carrots and coriander stalks to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Cut the squash in half lengthways (there is no need to peel) and then into quarters. Remove the seeds, then cut into thin 0.5cm slices. Wash the spinach and remove any tough stalks.

Add the fennel and mustard seeds to the pan and allow to cook until the mustard seeds start popping, then add the squash, chopped tomatoes, coconut milk and tamarind paste. Put a lid on the pan and simmer on a medium-high heat for 20 minutes, until you have a thick, flavoursome curry. Top up with a little hot water from the kettle if it gets too thick. Meanwhile, line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Put the coconut flakes on the tray and grate over the zest of 1 lime. Pour over the maple syrup and put into the oven for 5 minutes, until turning golden at the edges. When the rice is ready, drain it and keep it warm. Once the curry is cooked, stir in the spinach and the coriander leaves and squeeze in the juice of both the limes. Spoon some rice into your bowls and ladle the curry over the top. Scatter the roasted coconut on top and finish with more coriander, if you like.

Image: Matt Russell

Posted: 22.01.16 19 Comments


Posted by Ursula at 3:39 on the 16.02.16

Made this for a crowd the other day and it went down a storm… In the book there is a typo over the amount of coconut flakes, so make sure you do 50 g and not 500 g like it says in the book!

Posted by Anna at 2:36 on the 01.08.16

Thanks Ursula. There is indeed a typo in the book in the first edition, but it has been corrected in subsequent editions.

Posted by Peter Bright at 1:04 on the 26.07.16

Great recipe. Made this for my girl today and she enjoyed it very much. She said I can make it again

Posted by Anna at 2:36 on the 01.08.16

Thanks so much Peter, really glad you enjoyed.

Posted by Toby at 1:18 on the 04.09.16

Curry was coming along very nicely – but I think 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste is way too much. Is this a typo too? 2 teaspoons perhaps. Curry was basically black compared to the lovely orange it looks in the book.

Posted by Anna at 1:11 on the 29.11.16

Hello Toby. I love tamarind so do like to use tablespoons but it is a distinctive flavour so feel free to reduce next time you make it. Hope you enjoy it. AJ x

Posted by Ali at 7:56 on the 18.09.16

Made it tonight- very tasty and very much looking forward to leftovers tomorrow! Still a lot of bite to the carrots though even though cooked for quite a bit longer than suggested- is that supposed to be the case?

Posted by AntoniaB at 12:15 on the 18.10.16

This was fabulous. I made it butternut squash for me (which I had in the house) and chicken for my husband (no squash for him – though he likes carrots). This is how we make a mixed marriage work! We both loved it – great, complex depth of flavour and loved the texture.

I really enjoyed your visit to The Washington Post’s online food hour!

Posted by Robin at 10:05 on the 08.11.16

Great recipe, although it seems to take me a lot longer than 20 mins to cook to squash, even better tasting the next day!

Posted by Karen at 7:10 on the 06.12.16

I wonder if it would be nice to roast the pumpkin first and then add to the pan?
What do you think?

Posted by Joel at 7:07 on the 02.10.17

As autumn approaches and my wedding anniversary, I was looking for a special squash recipe with flavour. This didn’t disappoint and my wife was especially happy! Love you Alex!

Posted by rachel at 5:08 on the 29.01.18

Hi there, in the book it says you could use desiccated coconut instead of flakes – just wondering if is used in the same amount and is it cooked the same way as the flakes? By the way, my kids can’t thank you enough as your recipes just work so well that they no longer mind my ‘healthy’ cooking!

Posted by NATALIE at 12:16 on the 26.02.18

Hi Anna, my husband and I are aiming towards 75% vegetarianism so I put a message out on Facebook for good recipe books. Bought yours and so far every recipe has inspired us to continue! Thank you for giving us some of our greatest dinners yet… each new dish is exciting!

Posted by Anna at 1:57 on the 26.02.18

Natalie – that’s so lovely to hear. Thank you for getting in touch, it’s wonderful to hear. AJ x

Posted by Abigail Kerrera at 12:53 on the 18.04.18

Hi Anna, searching for tamarind everywhere and our local Asian shops seem to have run out! I don’t have time to de-pod and scrape them, is there a substitute I can use, like dates? xxx

Posted by Cyndy at 9:09 on the 08.07.18

Love this curry, cook it heaps of times and its always great. Love the Tamarind in it too!

Posted by Kirstie Boyd at 10:34 on the 05.12.19

Pulled a jar of this curry out of the freezer this morning for dinner today – had almost forgotten how much I loved it! Glad I bothered to make the coconut flakes again because they are magic.

Posted by Kate at 8:17 on the 02.01.20

Love the recipe! I have made the sweet potato version from the guardian twice. The recipe gives a cooking time of 20-30 minutes. However for me, even after almost an hour of simmering, the potatoes aren’t soft. Is there a reason this is happening? I think I will try the butternut squash version next!

Posted by Chris at 5:49 on the 22.01.20

My friend discovered this fabulous recipe in her daughter’s cook book. Was invited for dinner(lucky me) to try it. We all loved it. She is feeling inspired and is working her way through the book.

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