My father is a simple man and very simple things in life make him happy. Indian pumpkin cooked with fenugreek seeds, garlic, and chile with a little sweetness and a little tang make him happy.
After quite a while, I realized that the pumpkin we get in India is very different in taste, shape, and size from the ones we find in the U.S. And after a lot of trial and error I finally found a variety of squash that comes closest to the taste. Acorn squash is what you need if you want the taste of Indian pumpkin.
There are a lot of ways pumpkin is cooked in India; this is the way my grandmother taught my mom and then I learned from her. It's very simple with just a few ingredients you can easily find at home and it tastes pretty good.
My mom stresses the use of mustard oil, which I always say is to Indian food (after ghee, of course) as olive oil is to Italian. But I used olive oil because that's what I and a lot of us can easily find in our pantry. If you can find aamchur (dried mango powder), then fabulous, or else you can use lime or lemon juice as well. So here's the recipe.
- 1 tablespoon mustard, olive, or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 dried whole red chile peppers, chopped roughly
- 1 medium-sized acorn squash, skinned, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- Salt, to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon aamchur (dried mango powder) or 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
Heat the oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add a few fenugreek seeds to test; they should pop and sizzle when dropped in the hot oil. If not, continue heating the wok and test again. Add the remaining fenugreek seeds.
As they start to sizzle, add the garlic and chile pepper. When the garlic starts to brown, add the acorn squash and turmeric. (Be careful, turmeric stains.) Mix well and cover with a lid, stirring occasionally until half cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Then, uncover and season with salt, to taste.
Continue to cook, uncovered, until the squash is fork tender, about 5-10 minutes. (When nearly done, the squash will start to get mushy, so go easy while stirring or it will break. Not that there will be any change in taste, but it just won't look as pretty.) Once cooked through add the aamchur (or lemon or lime juice), sugar, and coriander. Mix well, cook for 1 more minute, and then remove from heat.