Pumpkin is one one of my favorite vegetables but a lot of Indians I know seem to loathe it – probably because during monsoon season, it is one of the few vegetables available and they get completely sick of it by the time they reach adulthood. I survived a childhood pumpkin glut when my Dad grew a bumper crop in an already oversupplied market in the 1970s. My Dad eventually had to pay to dump a semi-trailer of unsold pumpkins, as well as having our extended family and friends eat our way through a shed full of pumpkins. We ate a lot of pumpkin that year, but I still managed to survive it with my love of pumpkin intact.
This dish originally comes from the mother of one of my son’s best friends from preschool – Shalini, a brilliant Indian cook who shares my love of this much maligned vegetable. I used to eat this sweet and sour pumpkin at Shalini’s house and went through a period of making it a lot a home. Served with spinach dahl (another Shalini special!) and rice, it was one of our favorite family meals. I haven’t made it for years though and I’ve had butternut pumpkin sitting on my kitchen bench for a couple of weeks just begging to be used up, so I went online, Googled the key ingredients – pumpkin, amchoor, fennel, fenugreek seeds and came up with this Madhur Jaffrey recipe. Shalini’s version was a bit soupier, because she added some water after sauteing the pumpkin and spices, and in this version, the pumpkin is sauted in spices, covered and cooked on a low heat without any added liquid. Both ways are good: if you prefer a soupier version, you can use a bit less oil and just add some water after sauteing the pumpkin and spices.
Dehli style sweet and sour pumpkin
From My Kitchen Table – 100 Essential Curries by Madhur Jaffrey
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
- 1⁄4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
- 1⁄4 teaspoons nigella seeds (kalonji)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 1⁄2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 2–3 dried red chillies (or chilli flakes)
- 8–12 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- About 900 grams (2 lb) of pumpkin cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes
- 1⁄4 to 1 teaspoon salt
- 11⁄2 tablespoons of brown sugar or grated jaggery
- 2 teaspoons of ground amchoor or lemon juice
- 1⁄2 – 3⁄ cup water (optional).
- Heat oil in large wide, preferably non-stick pan ( I use my large non-stick stir fry pan). When oil is very hot, add curry leaves and cumin seeds. Let sizzle for about 10 seconds, then add nigella, fennel, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns and whole red chillis (or chilli flakes). Stir round and allow to sizzle for a few seconds, then add pumpkin and stir round the spices for about one minute.
- Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 40–45 minutes until pumpkin is just tender, stirring every now and then. If you want a moister dish, add 1⁄2 a cup of water to the pumpkin just before you cover the pumpkin.
- When the pumpkin is cooked add salt, sugar and amchoor or lemon juice. Stir gently and gently mash the pumpkin if desired, retaining some of the texture.