The prodigal pumpkin was stored with loving care on jute hammocks to avoid pressure spoilage. In the dark tin-roofed store rooms, several were stored at a time and they looked like chandeliers of varied shapes, sizes and colours. The best one for the purpose used to be carefully selected and downed. An involved ritual followed- the cutting, the storing, portioning and sending of portions to neighbours and friends.
Then came the cleaning and washing of the seeds and drying them in the sun. Sometimes we couldn’t wait- it was fun to tear open the fresh semi-hard skins off the half dried seeds and pop kernels into the mouth. The maid would always complain when she found seeds in the pockets of clothes in the washing! They were like chewing gum- a fixture and constant companion on lazy summer afternoons.
And the cooking would begin. The large prime cuts were used for subjis, dals, raitas, dangar (a raita made with a steamed or fresh vegetable and roasted and coarsely ground dals mixed in yoghurt and spices). Sweets were not left out- with pumpkin dishes like kheer, puri, halwa, dashmi (sweet rotis) shakkarparas with that magic combination of pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg and wheat flour!
The strings, bits of the pulp and some seeds would be mixed with flattened rice and spices and hand dropped into small balls onto plastic sheets as ‘sandgey’ – like badis. These would be stored when sun dried, and fried and served as accompaniments to a meal.
The skin, the stumpy stalk and all the waste was of course, the cows’ share!
At times, a prized pumpkin would be retained a tad too zealously in waiting for the right occasion and dried up. But it could still be used – as a buoy by lads learning to swim in the village well, as the base of an ektara fashioned out as a summer craft project.
Every bit used, reused, recycled.
Every bit sowing seeds of happiness!
2 cups grated pumpkin
3-4 cups milk
2 tbsp atta (whole wheat flour)
1-2 tbsp ghee
Sugar or sweetener to taste
A pinch of grated nutmeg
A pinch of crushed cardamom
1 tbsp Pumpkin seeds
Cook the grated pumpkin in a microwave in a covered bowl for about 2-3 minutes. Heat a sauce pan and melt the ghee in it. Add the atta to the ghee and roast well till a heavenly aroma emanates from it. In the last minute, add the seeds and let them splutter. Boil milk separately. Add the cooked pumpkin, mix well into the roux. Make sure no lumps remain. If any do remain, they will melt in the milk. Add the boiling milk and let it cook further. Add the sugar or sweetener, nutmeg, cardamom.
The addition of the whole-wheat flour and ghee roux makes a world of difference to this kheer.
Serve warm, at ambient temperature or chilled, as part of the main meal with chapatti or poori, or as a dessert!