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Pumpkin stew with chillies, spices and ground nuts (Legumbres en pipian)

We generally think of stews as European, but South American cuisine is also filled with hearty stews that are slow braised and beautiful. In Mexico, particularly the combination of meats and beans slow-cooked with complex spices and myriad of spices make these stews divine.

This is a hearty winter vegetarian stew that is packed with flavour. The stew is without beans making it lighter than the hearty chillies from the region. The mushrooms are slow cooked and the earthy flavours are concentrated and absorbed by the soft pumpkin. The pasilla chillies add a smoky flavour with mild heat. The spices finish the dish with a complex flavour profile that is dampened by the cheese. You can serve this dish as a stew with soft tortillas, but it will work well as a topping for nachos or in tacos.

Deborah Madison was one of the first chefs to embrace the farm-to-table movement when she opened her restaurant Greens, one I have dined at a few times. Her cookbooks are lovely, and this one, in particular, is amazing. Simple recipes that are loaded with flavour. Like me, you should get all her cookbooks, each is a masterpiece!

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons oregano, Mexican preferred

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

20 almonds

2-3 pasilla chillies

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups yellow pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces

3 cups mushrooms, sliced

Salt, to taste

4 cups water

4 tomatoes, puréed smooth

1 cup cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 cup hominy or corn kernels, frozen okay

1/2 cup peas, frozen okay

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced + for garnish

To serve:

Sour cream

Grated cheddar or Oaxaca cheese

Soft tortillas, corn or flour

Toast the individual spices, cumin, oregano, sesame seeds, and almonds individually till each is lightly toasted and aromatic. Toast the pasilla chillies by pressing down on them firmly till you see the first whisp of smoke. Cool completely. Add all of them to a spice blender and blitz till very smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot and add onions and garlic, saute2 till the onions are soft and translucent. Add the pumpkins, mushrooms and salt and sauté for 4-5 minutes till the mushrooms start to get wet. Add the spice paste and mix it well.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the water and tomatoes and mix in well. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. By this time the pumpkin should be getting soft. Add the cauliflower and mix in and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Add the corn and peas and mix in and simmer for 3-4 minutes till the peas are cooked. the pumpkin should be soft and the cauliflower should be blanched but still maintain a crunch. Taste for salt and spice. Mix in the cilantro.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro and with all the accompaniments.

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