18 January 2010

Aromatic Pumpkin and Coconut

Heidi got the book Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent from the library, and I began flipping through it recently. It is full of gorgeous photos, intriguing travel stories, and drool-inducing recipes from all over South Asia. I had to try the Bengali Aromatic Pumpkin and Coconut because:
-I love savory pumpkin dishes
-I happened to have a pumpkin lying around that needed to be used ASAP!

The recipe says any kind of pumpkin can be used, or even other winter squashes. I have no idea what kind of pumpkin I had; it popped up unexpectedly in a friend's garden and she gave it to me. It may have been a carving pumpkin, I don't know!

Scant 2 tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp nigella seeds (I couldn't find these, I used mustard seeds instead)
½ tsp cumin seeds
About 1 cup chopped onion
About 4 cups coarsely grated pumpkin (I finely grated it, oops)
1 tsp each ground coriander, sugar, and salt
1 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
¼ cup water
2 dried chilies, stemmed
One 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 large or 2 small bay leaves

Heat the oil in a pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the nigella (or mustard) and cumin seeds and cook for a minute, then add the onion and cook until it starts to brown, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to medium and add the pumpkin. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the coriander, sugar and salt and cook for another 2 minutes – the pumpkin should be soft. Add the coconut and keep stirring for another 2 minutes. Stir in the water (I ended up adding about ½ cup), then add the dried red chilies, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Cook another 2-3 minutes, still stirring. Taste to make sure the spices are to your liking. Serve and eat!

I followed the original recipe pretty much exactly, even going so far as to chop and measure out everything before starting. This made cooking the dish pretty easy, especially since you need to constantly stir it - no worrying that it'll scorch in the pan while you dig around for the coriander.

This turned out delicious! It had a subtle, warm flavor and a nice slightly crunchy texture. It wasn't at all spicy, though I'm sure a little heat would have been a nice variation. I was expecting it to be more of a sauce-like dish, so I made rice to go with it. As you can see, it was not liquidy in the least. I also had a purple baked potato with it, because I thought it would be pretty – in hindsight, this was probably too many carbs, and it ended up being a pretty heavy meal. The book recommends serving it alongside a soupy dal, which sounds like the perfect accompaniment.

The roommate reaction was lukewarm on this one (whatever, more leftovers for me!). Nicola thought it was too bland, and it could certainly withstand an increase of spices. Heidi thought it was good, but only in small amounts, as she doesn't really like coconut. In conclusion, I would probably do this as a side dish to counteract a spicier main attraction.

And, in case you're curious, here is what it looks like to cut up and grate a pumpkin:

Just cut off the top, then cut it in half, scoop out the pulp and seeds, peel with a vegetable peeler, then grate. It took a little while, but was easy.

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