Cooking With Mum’s Magic: Poppin’ Pumpkin

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By Pratishtha Dobhal


“Feeling overwhelmed”. +

“Now excited”. +

“Just hit glee”. +

“Oh No!… That sinking feeling”. +

“That was a close burn”. +

“Deep food aroma breathing underway”. +

“It’s all coming together”. +

“Yes! It looks just about right”. +

“There. Nailed it”.+

“What an absolute beauty”.+

“Spooned and down the mouth”.=

This absolutely gorgeous looking, wonderful smelling, pumpkin cooked in mustard oil, fenugreek seeds, jaggery, and mum’s magic, makes me beyond happy. Someone give me a gold star.

Not being dramatic. I promise–this is how it exactly played out.

Food, especially mum’s food is comfort, it’s coming home, traipsing familiarity.

I have been experiential-ly experimental most of my life. In following the precedence set by hero ‘experimentalists’ before me, I have made some bad decisions and sometimes stumbled upon some good ones. With food, I have been a serial risk taker. Going to new food haunts and picking the most ‘interesting‘ sounding name on the menu. I take the entire experience as a gamble when I am cruising my palate on a new cuisine. I don’t know how the journey or company will be, but I sure as hell hope I have great memories of the adventure.

My food ship cruise, however, has often met Titanic’s dismal end.

So at ease with the idea of trying the unfamiliar, I sometimes sideline the apparent and all too familiar. I guess it comes from the attention seeking emotional needs that have found a way of creeping into full-blown adulthood.

Why this finds itself on a popping pumpkin piece? My emotional attachment to everything, borders on addiction? Perhaps.

To set the record straight, it’s important to establish the following.

I am not living far from home. I get daily mum’s magic not sparsely, but abundantly. And despite all this (I am certainly not complaining), I have always doubted my ability to cook as well as her. One of five sisters, she is the best cook in the family (sorry masi’s and mausa’s who may stumble upon this. Erm…you know it’s true). My cousin who is often horrified by my interpretation of mum’s classic dishes wouldn’t believe this feat. But in your face M– “I made poppin’ pumpkin just like mum does and got her stamp of approval too”.

Food is so intricately weaved into the fabric of our lives that it’s all too easy to just not care enough. You have it on a daily basis and everything ‘daily’ therefore can mean over bearing,mundane, and routine.

In my interpretative, practically punctuated reality of how things stand, food is tradition. It’s spice laden loving. It’s very, very, personal. And to now know, that what I find most comfort in and I most crave when homesick, is something I can cook as well as the chef, is incredibly exciting!

Bless you today, you were ‘interesting’ in the kitchen.

Now that I have purged my emotional food loving here, here’s the recipe.

You need:

Half a pumpkin (half kg,do away with the seeds), chopped into small square pieces (they can be imperfect geometrical shapes as long as they are tiny)

Wait, don’t throw the seeds in the bin. Wash them in water and soak them overnight. You can dry them out the next day and use it later as dry fruit/ afternoon nibbles)

Two teaspoons dried mango powder, three teaspoons dried coriander powder, half teaspoon turmeric, two spoonfuls chopped onion, one teaspoon jaggery, three spoonfuls mustard oil, one dried red chilly, two teaspoon garam masala, and salt to taste.

What to do:

You can take a deep dish. Heat the mustard oil for two minutes till it’s piping hot. Add chopped onion, and the mustard seeds on high flame. Once the onions start browning, add the red chilli, one teaspoon of dried coriander powder, and turmeric powder. Thirty seconds later add the chopped pumpkin. Mix the spices well with the pumpkin on high flame. Once you know the lush pumpkin chops are covered in the dried powder mix, reduce the flame to minimum. Put a lid, and let it cook for fifteen minutes.

Come back to open the lid. Add the rest of the dried coriander powder, dried mango powder, garam masala, jaggery, and salt to taste.

If you are feeling even slightly aggressive, smash away at the pumpkin so you have a mish-mash of semi solid and gooey pumpkin delight, on high flame, not more than two minutes. Make sure you are stirring the pot to avoid any burns.

Turn off the stove. Let your pumpkin rest with a lid on for thirty seconds, if you just can’t wait; for a minute or two, if you want to grab a slice of bread or a chapati.

Feast away.

Verdict: Now you know how my mum’s magic tastes.

Feel free to share your’s or your mum’s interpretation.

Tata: I think I have earned my wait.

Time to dig in.


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