Monday, 21 May 2012

Not a patch on pumpkin!

Pumpkin Bakar Bhaaji (Curried Pumpkin)

Pumpkins evoke so many good memories- of the magic coach that took Cinderella to the ball;  of yummy sweet pumpkin pooris with poppy seeds my mother made to take on picnics and long family trips or the yummy pumpkin kheer she made;  of listening wide eyed to my mother telling us about how she learnt to swim in a large well with a dried and hollow from inside whole pumpkin tied to her back like a float; of the memories of jealously guarding the pumpkin seeds drying in the sun on lazy summer afternoons and shooing away peckish birds; of my awe as a child when I learnt all about the beautiful music they produced when turned into taanpuras and sitars;  of the heart-warming stories about the humble pumpkin feeding some starving farmer’s family or helped a poor grandma escape from a tiger on her way back from her daughter’s after feasting on ghee and roti; of the exciting introduction through books and comics to the very American Halloween pumpkin and the pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving Dinners… and how can I forget our cat Ginger who loved to eat cooked pumpkin skins…

The pumpkin affective range is exponential…a pumpkin at once evokes a sense of the earthy and full richness and ripeness of autumnal bounty and the sense of mystery and magic. A pumpkin is comforting and homely as a soup and a pie, but can send a chill up your spine as a spooky jack o lantern grinning evilly at you!  

So many memories and thoughts associated with this glorious gourd!

And why not! This is one of the most versatile plants ever known to us. Almost all parts of the creepers – flowers, fruit, skin, seeds and even leaves are edible and also serve well as fodder. Pumpkins lend themselves to sweet and savoury dishes and although they have a distinct flavour and textures, merge very well with any spice and cuisines, be it Asian, Indian, Moroccan, Italian…,  And they can be cooked in many ways- boiled, steamed, fried, roasted, grilled, baked!

Its long shelf life means a good whole pumpkin can be stored for a long time and still be alive and thriving! As for nutritional values, pumpkins are low fat, low sodium, high in anti-oxidants, a good source of Vitamin A, C and E as well as carotenes and rich in minerals like copper, calcium, potassium.
Now what more can one ask of a plant that is happy to grow even if a seed is scattered carelessly in the yard! As the saying goes, if you want to prove you are a good gardener, you need to plant only one pumpkin seed!
So it was with a great relief  that I noted the wide variety of pumpkins available in Australia unlike a lot of other much-loved vegetables from the realms of Indian cuisine. And pumpkin is a regular feature in our home and goes into our pastas, pizzas, sambar, tagines, brown rice, vegetable roasts, soups, raita, kheer, halwa, pooris, pies, dumplings and yes, the lovely curries or bhaajis!

This bhaaji is a typically Marathi version of a sweet and sour pumpkin curry, popularly called the Bakar Bhaji in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra


½ kg pumpkin (any variety- but I like Jarrahdale and Butternut better) cleaned, washed, cut into 1 ½  inch long and ½  inch wide pieces. You can keep the skins on as it helps to retain the shape of the pieces)

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon methi seeds

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon white poppy seeds (khus khus)

1 teaspoon chironji (if you get good ones- I haven’t used them in the bhaaji featured in the photo here)

¼ teaspoon hing

½ teaspoon turmeric

7-8 curry leaves

3-4 dry red chillies (or more)

1 teaspoon goda masala (if you can get it- if not, use 1 ½  tsp of garam masala)

½  teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 tablespoon gur or brown sugar (depends on the sweetness of the pumpkin)

1 teaspoon thick tamarind concentrate

2 tablespoons grated coconut or desiccated coconut

Salt to taste

Chopped coriander to garnish

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai. Add the methi seeds first and as they begin to turn golden throw in the mustard and cumin seeds. Once these begin to splutter, add poppy seeds, (chironji, if you can get them- the chironjis we get here become rancid very quickly!) curry leaves, dry red chillies, hing and turmeric. Quickly add the pumpkin pieces and sauté them. Add half a cup of water to the pumpkin and lower the heat. Alternately, place a plate half filled with water as a cover on top of the pan. Pumpkin pieces cook very fast, so keep a keen watch on the cooking.

When almost cooked, add the masala, coriander powder, gur, tamarind, coconut and salt to taste.

Remove from heat when not fully cooked. The heat of the cooked pumpkin will continue to cook it till fully done. Remember, you have to handle the pieces carefully, so as not to mash them into one gooey mess! Garnish with coriander and serve hot with roti or dal and rice or kadhi and rice or just by itself!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome weary web wanderer!
I hope you have found whatever you were looking for!
I would love to know what you thought of my recipes and posts- so why don't you drop a line?!