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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

As sweet as pumpkin!

Sweet Pumpkin Delight

Until Anu’s Bamboo Hut came into being, I had neither cooked nor had a clue about how to cook sweet pumpkin! As an experiment, my kitchen help Shashikala and I took on the humungous vegetable. Although hard, the pumpkin flesh also contains a lot of water and is fibrous. All we knew was that pumpkin was cooked with its skin and not with its seeds. We decided to dice the vegetable and just cook it in simple seasoning without water, until it was done, and then garnish it with lots of grated coconut and coriander leaves. The dish turned out to be a great hit the first time we served it. The garnish gave the vegetable a little more personality while still retaining its original sweet flavor and texture. Even the skin was agreeable to my guinea pigs!

In India, sweet pumpkin is found in various shapes, sizes, and colors. There are the huge peach or pale orange ones and the flattened or oblong ones with a hard skin and that can be stored for a month or more. Some are small, round, flattened and dark orange. Others are huge, with green skins and dark orange flesh inside. The green ones are my favorite, as they are tender and the skin is softer and rich in minerals like Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc. The pumpkin is also rich in vitamins like vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and E, besides containing a high level of β carotene. You can use any type of pumpkin available to you. Try eating a piece of it raw—it tastes like a sweet, hard fruit!

Sweet pumpkin seeds are quite popular. They are separated from the flesh, washed, salted, and dried in the sun until they lose all of their moisture. The dried seeds are then gently roasted until they turn crisp. Crack them with your front teeth to open them and then eat the inner tasty seed. These are good for people with constant cravings, as getting through a handful of seeds takes a long time! Pumpkin seeds are rich in the abovementioned minerals, especially zinc, which promotes prostrate health in men. The seeds have anti-inflammatory benefits in arthritis and are good for strong bones.


Serves [4 - 6].

Sweet pumpkin, diced with skin (no seeds)

1 kg or about 2 pounds


2 Tbsp

Mustard seeds

½ tsp

Curry leaves

2 sprigs

Chana daal

1 Tbsp

Urad daal

1 Tbsp

Dry chillies

4 to 5

Cumin seeds

1 tsp

Sesame seeds

2 Tbsp


pinch or two

Ginger grated

1 one-inch piece

Turmeric powder

¼ tsp


to taste

Coconut, freshly grated

½ cup

Coriander leaves, chopped roughly

½ cup


Add oil to a heated, thick-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they pop or sputter. Add the curry leaves, chana daal, urad daal, dry chillies, and cumin seeds, and fry for half a minute. Add the sesame seeds and stir-fry until the daals begin to turn slightly golden. Add the asafoetida and stir-fry for 5 seconds. Add the turmeric powder into the seasoning and stir for a just few seconds. Add the diced pumpkin and mix well to spread the seasoning evenly. Add the shredded ginger and mix. Cover and cook on a low-medium flame, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is almost done. Add the salt and cook on a low flame for a few more minutes until the pumpkin is cooked. Garnish with freshly grated coconut and chopped coriander leaves and serve.


Substitute sweet pumpkin with peeled and diced sweet potatoes. Add a quarter cup of water after adding the diced sweet potato to reduce the cooking time.

Enjoy this dish and do let me know how it turned out if you tried!