Friday, 11 October 2013

Pumpkin and Paneer Masala

Pumpkins are being sold everywhere right now, even in the craft stores, although I doubt those pumpkins would make good eating.  There’s a nice variety called ‘Pumpkin Pie’, a small one that tastes wonderful.  If you plan to eat it, buy that.

I bought just one, measuring about seven inches across by five inches high.  It’s more than I’d recommend for a single meal, so I divided mine into several.  Because I love roasted pumpkin seeds, and I don’t like arguing the raw flesh of a pumpkin away from it’s tough shell, I used a large butcher knife to cut the pumpkin into several pieces.  Scooping out the stringy stuff and seeds, I then separated the seeds and set them aside.  More about that at the bottom of this post. 

The pumpkin pieces can be roasted at 350 F for about forty minutes, or until they are easily pierced with a fork.  Remove and let cool, then the flesh can be easily scooped away from the hard peel.

I used the roasted pumpkin for a sweet custard as well, but to tell the truth, it wasn’t that great, so I’m not inflicting that recipe on you.  This one is much better!  

If you're using pre-roasted pumpkin, this dish will take about ten to fifteen minutes to prepare and cook.

1 tablespoon canola oil
Don't dice these too finely, you'll want them a bit crunchy.
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
1 heaping teaspoon garam masala (extra turmeric if not orange enough)
1 red onion, sliced and then cut into smaller pieces
3 Thai chillies (or more to taste)
1 inch cube fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
2 cups roasted pumpkin, scraped from shell and roughly chopped
1 scant cup paneer (I used the fried in butter stuff available in Indian groceries)
½ cup plain yogurt 

This is a fairly light dish, great for breakfast or lunch, or as one of several dishes if used for the main meal.  Once the pumpkin is roasted, it takes very  little time to prepare this.  (I roasted mine well ahead of time, and refrigerated it, using portions of it as required.)

Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium high and add the oil.  Drop the cumin seed into the oil, and when it starts to sizzle and colour a bit, add the mustard. 

Drop the seeds into the hot oil.

Hover.  As soon as the mustard seed turns mostly greyish white, add the onion, chillies and ginger.  Cook till somewhat browned, but not entirely wilted.  Add the garam masala and turmeric, if needed.  Cook for a couple more minutes, stirring.

(My garam masala was a store bought version, and it had little to no turmeric.  Lest we all suffer from not having enough curcumin in the diet, I sprinkled a bit of turmeric in there too.) 

Because this dish is quite soft overall, it’s nice to have a bit of texture and crunch, so add the pumpkin while the onions still have lots of life in them. 
Roasted pumpkin easily separates from the shell.
Let the pumpkin brown just a little, then add the paneer.  (I use frozen, but if you’re using fresh, cook just a few minutes longer, till the paneer is heated through.)  Once the paneer is heated through, add the plain yogurt, stirring, and cook a few minutes more till all is heated through.

If I still had cilantro in the garden, I’d use that to garnish this dish, but alas, Jack Frost has arrived.  I depended on the kindness of a few tomatoes for a bit of prettiness here. 

This quick vegetarian dish is super tasty and healthy too.  I do love a savoury and tangy version of pumpkin, and this one fits the bill.  

I hope when I carve the craft pumpkins at Halloween I won’t abandon that task and turn them into this recipe instead.  Hopefully I’ll update this post with pics when the craft pumpkins are carved. 

Heat the pumpkin through and let brown a bit.

Meanwhile, here’s how to roast pumpkin seeds.  Waste not, want not!

Separate the seeds from the stringy stuff.  Pour a bit of canola onto a cookie sheet.  Rub the seeds around in the canola, so that they are all somewhat coated.  You should  need only a teaspoon or a bit more of the oil.  If you like, you can sprinkle some garam masala over the seeds, but for sure you will need some salt.  Pop into the oven and roast about thirty minutes, at 350 F.  Oh deliciousness, and healthy too.

Don't let the yogurt cook too long-- you want it just heated through to a creamy sauce.

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