Growing up, we rarely cooked with Bhopla or orange pumpkin at home, which is a real shame because I love pumpkin so much now. This is a stage in my late twenties when I will try everything once, but the bright orange-yellow pumpkin is something I come back to twice, maybe even three times in a month. A simple tempering, a bit of ginger, and some dry masalas to finish is how I’d cook my pumpkin for myself while mum would probably add it to her standard Sindhi onion-tomato gravy and pressure cook it. This onion-tomato gravy is the Gulabani household staple. Don’t know how to cook an ingredient? Lightly brown two onions and a clove of garlic, then pour in pulsed tomatoes. Soft hiss, then let the oil separate and it’s a few whistles away from being served.
While we’re familiar with cooking the pumpkin itself, it’s the leaves and the flowers of the pumpkin that are rarely prepared in most homes. These are available at Grant Road market as well as 4 Bungalows Market if you’re looking out for them. The long training vines of the pumpkin/gourd have silky leaves and the stems that snap easily are tender enough to cook. You can pull back the stringy portion of the stem if you like and chop it into bits to stir-fry with some fish sauce, crushed lemongrass and chilli. So good.
The flowers are another story. They can be stuffed, then dipped in an egg batter and deep-fried or simply coated in a besan/chickpea batter and deep-fried as a quick and delicious snack. Serve these flowers as a snack with a tomato and date chutney.
The pumpkin saag curry below is a no-fuss recipe and a riff from the regular way we cook at home because it has no onions, garlic and ginger but instead relies on panch phoron, bayeaf and dried chillies, whereas the pumpkin blossom fritters are stuffed with a dahi kebab mixture (half paneer-half hung curd) and batter-fried till crisp and delicious. If you’re looking for other recipes with pumpkin, try a Sindhi favourite Sat Saagi, a Malabar Spinach Chorchori and a Mumbai-style wet biryani stuffed into small pumpkins and baked.
Dahi Kebab Stuffed Pumpkin Flowers
Without breaking the petals, pry them open using your fingers and stuff them with this delicious hung curd and paneer kebab mixture that gets its flavour from fried onions. The frying batter is equal parts rice flour and all-purpose flour.
Hung curd 1/2 cup
Paneer 1 1/4 cup, grated
Coriander 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Chillies 2 tsp, chopped
Garam masala 1 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Sugar a pinch
Salt to taste
Fried onions 1/2 cup
Cashews 1 1/2 tbsp, chopped
Raisins 1 1/2 tbsp, chopped
Pumpkin flowers 3 small bunches of 5-6 flowers, rinsed
All-purpose flour 1/2 cup
Rice flour 1/2 cup
Baking soda a pinch
Water to make a loose batter
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Combine all the ingredients for the dahi kebab stuffing. You don’t want to overwork the mixture.
Trim the stems of the pumpkin flowers and pry open the petals gently. Use a teaspoon to stuff the kebab mixture into the flower using one of the petals and your thumb to wipe the spoon clean. Don’t overstuff the flowers. Pinch the mouth of the flower close using all fingers. Do this for all the flowers.
Heat the vegetable oil in a kadai over medium heat for deep-frying.
Make the batter by combining together the two flours, baking soda and a bit of water to make a batter with a thin coating consistency. Dip each flower into the hot oil and fry till golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan and fry only two or three flowers at a time.
Serve with this tomato and date chutney.
Pumpkin or Kumro Saag
Cleaning the pumpkin saag is perhaps the toughest part of this recipe. The bits of vine that snap easily like asparagus or ladyfinger are the ones you want to use here. Avoid the wiry tendrils and any bits of fibre you may come across when cleaning and cut everything into small bits to cook.
Pumpkin leaves and vines 1 large bunch, well cleaned. Tender stems and leaves chopped into small pieces
Panch phoron 2 tsp
Bay leaf 1
Kashmiri red chilli 1
Green chilli 1
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Ghee 1 tbsp
Garam masala 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp
Oil 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a kadai over medium high heat, and once hot, add the panch phoron, bay leaf and dry red chilli. Fry all the spices till fragrant.
Add to this the pumpkin leaves and vines and toss everything together for a minute. Reduce the heat to low and put a lid on the kadai. Let this cook for 10-15 minutes.
When ten minutes are up, check if the water from the leaves is drying up, and add up till 1/2 cup of water together with the cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt and sugar. Stir well, cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the vines are cooked all the way through. If you feel the dish is drying up quickly, add more water if necessary.
Once the dish is close to completion, in a small saucepan that you would use for tempering, heat the tablespoon of ghee over high heat and add the garam masala. Immediately take the pan with the hot ghee and masala off the heat and add to the greens. Cover the kadai and cook for two minutes. Finish with 1/2 tsp of asafoetida and a few pinches of salt to taste.