Oct 8, 2012

Go pumpkin go

I know I promised in my last post I will be back with some stories from India (check the bottom of the post for one of them). There is another one I have been working on which looks very promising. It is about a queen and an architect and secret passageways. But the story will have to wait while I attend my hosting duties for Susan’s MLLA-51.

The last date for sending in the entrees was three days ago and as the host I should have posted at least one if not a couple of legume recipes. As things go, I posted none. I also missed the deadline for Anita’s Mad Tea Party. Actually, I almost made it to her tea party but the kid fell sick. A doctor’s visit and some tests later we found out he had strep throat. He had to stay home for the better part of the week and though it was nice not to wake up at 6.30 AM to take him to school, I prefer him in school on weekdays. Unlike his mother, he enjoys the routine and predictability of the weekdays when he is in school. Nothing makes him happier than knowing what is in store for him for the day.
I try to keep a similar routine at home for him but things tend to get a bit loosey-goosey once in a while. He doesn’t seem to mind and I feel it is good for him not to follow a strict regimen all the time. He is just in first grade after all.

First grade has been a big transition for him though after the fun and easy kindergarten class. Last year, he got a one page weekly homework. This time around, there are weekly reading logs, math exercises and spelling tests to keep him occupied for the week. Did I mention, he also has after school activities four days a week? I, as always, am on chauffer duty after three in the afternoon.

Between picking him up from school, driving him to his play dates and assorted activities, I make dinner, usually a quick vegetable stir fry. Yes, we are not big on elaborate meals. A sabzi, some roti and a salad suffice us on weekdays.
This quick pumpkin sabzi is a staple during fall. In India, this preparation is usually reserved for fasting days and the sabzi is eaten without any bread or rice. We prefer it with rotis or a bajra bhakri and another sabzi or some cooked dal on the side. Sometimes, a koshimbeer of tomato and onions substitutes for a salad.

A powder of roasted sesame seeds and peanuts is a staple in my fridge. I sprinkle it liberally over the cooked pumpkin. The crunchy nuts contrast the softly cooked pumpkin’s texture and compliment the sweet flavor. They peanuts are also the reason why this pumpkin qualifies for MLLA.

Here is the simple yet flavorful pumpkin fry.
1 tbsp olive oil (substitute with cooking oil of your choice)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafetida (hing)
1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp red chili powder (or more according to taste)
2 - 4 cups of chopped pumpkin, skin and seeds removed
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp of sugar
2 – 4 tbsp of roasted peanut-sesame powder*

Heat oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin, asafetida, turmeric and red chili powder. Roast for 30 secs on low heat, taking care not to burn the spices.

Add the chopped pumpkin and stir with a spatula to coat the simmering spices evenly on it.
Turn the heat to medium, cover the pan and let the pumpkin cook for ten minutes.

Take off the lid, stir and cook till the pumpkin starts to soften. Add the salt and sugar, stir. The sugar will help the pumpkin caramelize and bring out its natural sweetness.

Sprinkle the peanut-sesame mix once the pumpkin is cooked through. Cook for another five minutes, turn off the heat and add chopped coriander.
*Traditionally, only roasted peanut powder is added to the sabzi. He does not care for them as much as I do (I love peanuts) so I grid sesame seeds with the peanuts. I make a find powder of the two but you can leave it a bit coarse, which is how I grew up eating this sabzi. It does taste definitely better.
 Pumpkin sabzi with moong usal & peanut usal and bajra bhakri
Before I go, here’s the first part of a story I have been working on and off for a while. It is one of those classic bed time stories that most of us may have heard growing up in Indian households. When I first narrated the original story to my son he complained it was a bit too short. So, I started expanding on the story line. It is considerably longer than the original and I would love to hear your feedback.
Claimer: It is a little bit similar to the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, except the heroine is the grandma, there is a lion instead of a wolf, no woodcutter comes to grandma’s rescue and a pumpkin is involved in the grand escape. So, not at all similar to LRRH except for crossing the forest.

Chal re bhoplya tunuk tunuk (go pumpkin tunuk tunuk or go pumpkin go)
Once upon a time, in the village of Buddhu lived an old woman named Nanima Chatura.  Now, before I tell you the rest of the story you have to understand that grandma Chatura lived in an age when there were no cars, buses or trains to take you safely from one village to the other.  One had to travel on foot or hitch a ride on a passing bullock cart.  One had to be on the watch for bandits and con men that lay in wait for lonely travelers and robbed them of their precious belongings.  If one escaped the scoundrels, the traveler still had the lion, Sher Khan, to deal with. He did not care if the travelers had valuable possessions on them or not.  All he cared about was how much meat a person carried on his body.

It was no wonder that the villagers of Buddhu hardly ever ventured out of the safe confines of their village walls.  But Chatura was as clever as her name suggested.  She had managed to get her daughter, Samajh, married off in a little town called Dimag on the other side of the forest.  The people of that town were brave and used their wits to stay safe from the wild beasts of the jungle. 
It had been a few years since Chatura had visited her daughter and grandkids.  So one day, she packed her little bundle of clothes, a few gifts for her grandkids and set off on foot for Dimag.  You may wonder where the frail Chatura got her courage from when burly pehalwans (muscled men) of the village trembled at the thought of crossing the jungle.

The way Chatura figured she had nothing to fear from the bandits. She did not have any valuables she cared for to be looted and she was all skin and bones for Sher Khan.  She was a little apprehensive about the lion though but ever the optimist, she hoped when she met him he would have a full stomach and not come looking for trouble. 

As Chatura expected, she was waylaid by a gang of thieves but when they searched her little bundle, they found nothing but a few clothes and some wooden toys. They had no choice but to let her go. After all, what could an old woman do to them.

Having escaped the robbers unscathed Chatura heaved a sigh of relief and picked up her pace. The sun was setting in the west and soon it would be dark. She started looking for shelter and spotted a huge banyan tree. A travelling merchant had told her about it. He had taken refuge in its hollow base once and Chatura was glad she had found it. As the night fell, she ate her meager meal of two dry chapatis and sabzi, covered herself in the blanket and fell asleep.

She woke up to find two large yellow eyes staring at her. Chatura stifled a scream as she took in the body on which the eyes were. It was Sher Khan. He sat right in front of the tree, his tail swishing, licking his lips and staring unblinking at the old woman. He had not eaten in a few days and he was hungry. “This old woman would have to do for now”, he thought.

Meanwhile, Chatura was gathering her wits and thinking hard. She could see that Sher Khan was hungry. But she was also determined not to be his lunch that day. Trying very hard to sound calm she greeted him aloud, “Good morning Sher Khan. How are you today?”

To be continued as soon as I figure out Chatura's escape plan...


  1. Hope your li'l boy is well now.
    Simple stirfry with added crunch and the natural sweetness of the pumpkins are a must try.
    Looking forward to the naani from buddu to reach dhimag.

  2. Thanks Lata. He is doing good now. Back to school for him from tomorrow. :-)
    Here is a little secret. Naani will reach Dhimag safely. It is the journey back that will be perilious for her. :-)

  3. Oh no, I missed the MLLA date:(
    So many things happening !
    Hope your little one is better now.

    I make Bhoplyachi bhaji, with a variation, gravy, chinch-gool, rest of theingredients are same ( tilkut/ sesame powder optional)
    I will tr this dry version next.

    1. Manasi,

      You can still send in the MLLA entry. I am very flexible on the issue.
      Your bhoplyachi bhaji sounds interesting. Do you have it on your blog? I would like to check it out.

    2. Thanks Jaya, will have something in a day or two!
      I have bhoplyachi rassa bhaji on the blog,

  4. You paused the story at such a point that we can all only say, "What happened next?" It has bits of the familiar yet it reads like a fresh story. Love it! You should write a children's book!

    Late latif to your own party! :-)

    1. Anita, thanks. Should be able to post the finished story in my next post. Guess you will have to wait till then with "bated breath". :-)

      You also now know why this late latif could not make it to your party.

  5. The pumpkin curry looks as interesting as the story! Glad the little one has set you off on spinning a tale.. and hopefully the old woman has some tricks to outwit Sher Khan

    1. Thanks Radha. Oh, the old woman has more than a trick up her sleeve. :-)

  6. Delish - the recipe and the story. And a pumpkin saves the day? I knew men were overrated as saviors. : D

    I'll *finally* get out own MLLA dish in next day or two. No sick kids here, but I've been shuttling around for family more than expected. Glad your little boy is better.

  7. Arre...baki story kahan gaya ? Not fair, post quick. How is the little guy ?

  8. The Bhoplyacha baji looks lovely--golden roasted to perfection!!

  9. I have a soft spot for this orange delight.. we normally make a subzi with gud and hing shining bright! I am going to make this next time I buy pumpkin! My little boy has shown some liking towards pumpkin! Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe


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