So Donald Trump won the election; for some reason I had thought he would, whether I was hoping for it or not is an entirely other thing and that’s all I’m going to say on this topic because frankly I would rather focus my attention on more important things like food!
I’ve never understood why some veggies like karela, baingan and kaddu (bitter gourd, eggplant and pumpkin) gets such a bad rap back home. Most kids and a lot of grown men and women I know turn up their nose and gag at the mere mention of these vegetables and I just don’t get it; the only explanation I can think of is all the haters have just never had these ingredients cooked right and cooked well. I love all three and in fact I haven’t tasted a single vegetable that I don’t like and I’ve eaten a lot of veggies, I grew up vegetarian remember; this kaddu recipe is one that is done right, it will convert you for sure.
I have two aunts, older and younger to my father and both of them are brilliant cooks. Papa and his siblings grew up strictly vegetarian and both my buas got married into strictly non vegetarian families, more or less and my fate wasn’t very different, however unlike me both my buas are still vegetarian and yet cook amazing meat dishes without ever having tasted meat or eggs which I think is so cool. Jugnu bua, my younger aunt lives in the beautiful state of Himachal in northern India and this recipe is from her repertoire. My entire schooling was done in the same state and with Jugnu bua being the closest, I have so many memories of spending the shorter holidays with her and my cousins; her home was a big, spread out ancestral home with the kitchen in one corner of the house and a big winding staircase with tall steps leading to the bedrooms on the first floor where my cousins and I would be playing, reading and sometimes fighting; it was tedious and tiring to walk up and down more than ten times a day and yet bua would do just that bringing all kinds of yummy food for us ever hungry boarding school children. Now that I think about it, I can only imagine how tiring it must have been for her and yet all I can remember is her smiling sweetly and feeding me with so much love. Jugnu bua still lives in the same house and I hope someday soon I can go back to relive those wonderful childhood memories and eat some more of her delicious food.
This recipe is easy, rustic and delicious minus the usual onions and garlic that you find in most recipes, which means the lovely pumpkin flavour really has a chance to shine. The kick here comes from the mustard which tastes so different from the normally used chili powder or fresh chilies, add the crushed mustard a little at a time, tasting after each addition, it’s a strong flavour and not one that everyone is used to, crazy good nevertheless. Bua always grates the pumpkin but I was too lazy to and so cut it into bite sized pieces, which worked out well as it added texture with most of the pumpkin becoming mushy and some pieces holding on. As for the pumpkin, I went with a kabocha squash but you can use other varieties as well, make sure it’s nice and ripe.
- Kabocha Squash or Pumpkin/ Kaddu- 1 kg
- Mustard oil or vegetable oil- 2 tbsp
- Mustard seeds/ Rai- 3 tsp, divided
- Dried red chillies- 2
- Cloves/ Laung- 4-5
- Cinnamon stick/ Dalchini- 2 inch piece
- Turmeric powder/ Haldi- ½ tsp
- Salt- 1 tsp
- Sugar- 1-2 tsp
- Lemon juice- 2-3 tbsp
- Peel and cut the pumpkin into bite sized pieces. If using kabocha squash, cut in half and microwave for a minute, to make it easier to remove the skin.
- Heat oil in a pan, add the cloves, cinnamon, red chilies and 1 tsp mustard seeds; let mustard seeds splutter. Then add the pumpkin, turmeric and salt, sauté for a minute or so then cover the pan and cook on a slow flame till mushy.
- Coarsely crush the remaining mustard seeds (use a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin). Once the pumpkin is mushy and most of the liquids have dried up, add the sugar and lemon juice, starting with ½ a tsp of each, taste and adjust as required. Take the pan off the heat, let it rest for 5 minutes then add the crushed mustard, again starting with ½-1 tsp, taste and add more if you prefer it stronger.
- You can also grate the pumpkin, in which case it will cook faster.
- Add the sugar, lemon juice and crushed mustard sparingly; taste and add more to adjust.
- I used kabocha squash but you can use other varieties of pumpkin as well.