Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Oven Roasted Masala Squash

Oven Roasted Masala Squash

Now that most of our innocent flowers are frozen and ice forms on the birdbath every morning, using the oven to make a nice subji feels like the right thing to do. 
There’s something about oven roasted vegetables in the fall that induces great comfort. 
It’s easy, it smells divine, and it’s pretty tasty, too. 
For this recipe, I use mostly whole spices, and prep is pretty quick. 
This is a one dish meal.

Onion pieces this size--but no tomato- which I regretted!
1 tablespoon mustard oil
1 red onion, diced into large pieces (see picture!)
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 inches ginger, matchsticked
3 Thai chillies, sliced into quarters, lengthwise, then finely chopped
3 to 4 cups peeled, cubed squash, preferably butternut or acorn
15 curry leaves
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed, roughly ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
15 or so grates of fresh black pepper

¼ cup dessicated unsweetened coconut

pomegranate seeds (optional)
plain yogurt (optional)
kalonji (nigella seed) (also optional)

I usually use butternut or acorn squash for this dish, but at the supermarket, a huge squash named kabocha caught my eye.  Being the greedy type I grabbed it and brought it home.  As I was getting this dish ready, I quickly discovered I didn’t have the strength to cut the squash, so had husband person step in for that chore.  (He’s good at that.)  It took all of his strength, and he cut it into probably sixteen pieces, and I said I’d take over from there.  I worked on those pieces for about 40 minutes, finding that cutting even a small piece took too much effort.  Eventually I cut it all into cubes, more or less, and removed the outer green peel.  Butternut squash is sometimes difficult for the first cut, but a breeze compared to this!
This acorn squash is a better size; the kabocha was as big as my head!
You might think it odd, but I never get rid of the seeds in a squash.  I like to roast them along with the vegetable, and if I’m using a butternut squash, the seeds are tender and tasty.  I didn’t add any nuts to this dish because I knew the seeds would give me the protein that nuts would, and I was hoping they would be as delicious as what I expect.  Actually, the kabocha seeds didn’t roast well, and tasted like little lumps of wood.  I’ll not use this squash again, unless I find out that I should have used some other cooking method. 

Anyway, to get on with the recipe, add the oil to a large non-stick roasting pan, and add the onion, ginger, and sliced garlic.  Keep the garlic fairly large, to deliver a good taste.  Roasted garlic is sweet and earthy, really delicious.  Then I add the curry leaves, spices and squash and seeds (again—that’s acorn or butternut!) and mix well.  Pop it in the oven at 350F and bake about half an hour.  Remove from the oven and give it a good stir, so that all the veg get a chance to caramelise a bit.  Toss in the coconut, and bake another half hour or so.  When you can pierce the largest piece of squash with a fork, it’s done.
When I use butternut squash, this meal is moist and lovely.  But this kabocha was too dry for my tastes.  I had to ladle on some plain yogurt, and sparkle it up with pomegranate seeds.  A little kalonji to add a bit more visual interest, and I was off to a substantial vegetarian meal.  Without the yogurt, this could have been a vegan meal, and if I’d used a better squash, this would have been a vegan meal.  One has to be flexible, right?

If you’ve had success with the kabocha, please let me know!  I’m thinking it might be better simmered in coconut milk, but considering how long it took to peel and cube, I think I should use my time more wisely!
Get the gorgeous look AND the gorgeous taste by using butternut or acorn squash!

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