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Pumpkin Poran

6 May
This is a wonderfully simple, dry, savory type of vegetable dish or ‘curry’. Chunks of pumpkin are fried in pungent mustard oil seasoned with a blend of whole Bengali spices and then simmered with a little water until tender. The rich spicing and pungent mustard work perfectly with the soft sweet orange pumpkin. It is coming to the end of last years pumpkins in store and they need to be used before they turn bad so this curry makes great use of them. 
Serve with rice, flat breads, a yogurt dish, perhaps a dal, and raw or green vegetable side dish.
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp Panch Phoron (Bengali 5 spices-cumin, fenugreek, fennel, mustard and nigella seeds)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 500g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
  • 1-3 dried red chilli crushed
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • fresh coriander leaves or lightly crushed green coriander seeds to garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy cooking pot or wok over a medium flame. If using mustard oil let it get very hot and smoking to allow the acridity to mellow. Throw in the Panch Poran a second later add the garlic and chilli, let the pan sizzle for a few seconds until the garlic and chilli darken a little then add the pumpkin and stir fry. Turn the heat down and add the coriander, turmeric & salt. Stir and fry for 15-20 minutes sprinkling with a little water every few minutes until the apumpkin is tender but still in whole pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice and  coriander leaves and/or seeds.
Source inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for fried aubergines in A taste of India  P66 . I have used garlic instead of the asafoetida and whole dried chillis instead of chilli powder and lemon juice instead of amchoor powder. And less mustard oil as pumpkin will not absorb as much oil as aubergines and so less is needed.
Note Panch  Poran or phoron, (one of the many spellings) is the Bengali blend of five spices Panch means “five” and phoron is “flavour” or “spice”.

Yellow Pea Vegetable Soup

24 Oct

This is a lovely protein rich soup, clean, fresh and packed with delicious autumn vegetables. The dried peas and vegetables are lightly cooked so that they retain all their flavour and shape.

  • 1 onion, minced
  • Olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup yellow split peas
  • 3 carrots
  • turnip, radish or mooli
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 small leeks
  • thyme
  • 2 bayleaves
  • stock or water
  • salt

Wash the dried peas and leave to soak in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes. Use a roomy pan and  fry the onion in a little oil until starting to brown. Add the herbs, peas and their soaking liquid then top up with water or fresh vegetable stock enough to double the volume covering the peas. Put a lid on the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables, slice dice or chop in whaterever shape you feel like. Add the carrots and turnip but set aside the pumpkin and leeks while the soup simmers for another 15minutes. Add the leeks and pumpkin and simmer for a final 15 minutes or until the peas are tender. Adjust seasoning, remove the bayleaves and serve.
Tip adding the vegetables in a staggered order is to make sure each is just cooked and not turned to mush by over cooking so adjust the staggering according to what vegetables you end up using and how small they are cut.
Variation Fry some chopped bacon with the onions for a more meaty flavour

Butternut Squash Curry

10 Oct

This is an excellent autumn dish full of flavour with a sweet delicate texture. Butternut are one of the best tasting of the winter storage pumpkin/squash. It goes well with Indian style Greens or any meat dish. It also makes a great vegetarian main dish served on rice.

  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 butternut pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
  • 6 green tomatoes, peeled and chopped (optional)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 dried red chillis, crushed
  • 3 sweet green peppers
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground garam masala
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • handful coriander leaves to garnish

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then add the cumin, dry red chillis, garlic and curry leaves and fry until till light brown. Add the onions and green peppers and fry until soft. Add the pumpkin, tomatoes, turmeric, salt, and 1/2 a glass of water. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add sugar and garam marsala, mix well, continue to cook until the pumpkin is soft. Garnish with coriander. Serve hot with chapati or rice.
Variation  Add 1/2 cup desiccated coconut and fry for about 1-2 min with the other spices.

Pumpkin Soup Thai Style

13 Feb

Pumpkin soup can be a little insipid for my taste but this one is spicy and packed full of the flavours of Thailand. It is great for pumpkins that lack flavour but it will work with any kind of pumpkin, I’ve used the Italian trumpet gourd, Tromba D’Albenga.

* 500g Pumpkin, peeled and cubed
* 1 tbsp vegetable oil
* 1- 1.5 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
* 1 large onion, minced
* 500ml home-made stock
* 300ml coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large soup pan, add the curry paste and onion and fry for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the paste is giving off its aroma. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Puree to a smooth soup check seasoning and squeeze in a little lime juice, chilli oil or fish sauce to taste.

Gardener’s Note
I grew these Tromba D’Albenga in 2007 and 2008 and can grow to an enormous four feet in length. They also store well, about 6 months, in the cellar. The flesh is very similar in texture and colour to a butternut but they do not have the rich nutty taste, in fact the flavour is a little insipid, so they are great for this soup.

This recipe was originally posted on on 13/2/2008.

Simmered Japanese Pumpkin

10 Feb

This is a simple Japanese simmered dish that brings out the flavour and texture of Japanese pumpkin. Best served with a selection of other small dishes at room temperature.
Serves 2 Prep 5min Cook 10min

  • 350g Japanese pumpkin 
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Cut the kabocha or Japanese pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and any pith. Leave the skin on and cut into bit size chunks with a heavy sharp knife. Put the water, sugar, soy sauce, and kabocha chunks in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-10mins or until the liquid is almost gone and the pumpkin is tender. Serve topped with a sprinkling of crisp fried onion or roasted pumpkin seeds.
Note It is important to use the right kind of pumpkin, a Japanese kabocha type (Hokkaido or Potimarron) preferably or any variet that has dense, dry, nutty flesh.

Pumpkin & Fennel Soup

24 Jan

This is an absolutely delicious soup, a perfect combination of tart tomato, aromatic fennel and sweet nutty pumpkin. It makes a filling lunch or starter. The secret is not to over cook the pumpkin so that all the separate flavours are present and you can really taste each ingredient. I am not sure of the origins of this recipe as i found just the combination of flavours scribbled in one of my notebooks.

Serves 4 Prep 15 min Cook 30-45 min

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 Onion
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
* 1 dry cayenne chilli, de-seeded and crumbled
* 1 tsp fennel seeds
* 2 bay leaves
* 700g pumpkin
* 200g peeled chopped tomatoes or passata
* 3/4 -1 litre water

Peel and chop the onion finely. Fry onion in a large soup pan in the olive oil until starting to brown. Add the fennel and fry until softened add the garlic and fennel seed and fry for a few more minutes. Add bay leaves the chilli, tomato and 1 litre water. Cook covered for 15mins, meanwhile peel and chop the pumpkin into bit size pieces. Add the pumpkin cover and cook for another 15-30mins until the pumpkin is tender. Before serving I like to gently mash a little of the pumpkin against the side of the pan with a fork, this helps give the soup a more interesting texture and release the pumpkin flavour.

Cook’s Tip: I have used Marina di Chioggia, an Italian Heirloom pumpkin for this recipe but you could use any dense nutty orange fleshed pumpkin.

This recipe was originally posted on on 24/1/2007.


19 Nov

A perfect soup for the kitchen gardener. This recipe is a child of the classic Tuscan soup based on black cabbage, beans, and other vegetables. There must be as many recipes for Ribollita as there are cooks in Tuscany. This is our own variation and the secret of this recipe is to create a balance between the three main food types: the starchy white beans and potatoes, the sweet dense root veg and pumpkin and the sharp flavours of leafy dark greens such as Tuscan kale and chard. The soup is a delightful meal in itself and very tasty. It is the kind of soup designed to cook over a long period on a wood fire or stove and its name ‘Ribollita’ means to re-boil in Italian referring to the fact that this soup was probably kept on the go all week with different vegetables added to the pot. I prefer to stop cooking it at the point when the vegetables have each contributed their flavour but before they start to disintegrate into the soup so this recipe has a rather shorter cooking time than a traditional Ribollita.

Serves 4 Prep 15 min Cook 30-45 min

  • 1 cup dried cannelloni beans soaked and boiled until tender
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • fry above
  • 1 leek sliced
  • 3 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 potatoes peel halved and sliced
  • 3 plum tomatoes sliced
  • 1.5 litres water
  • ¼ butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp celery verudette or 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 head of Tuscan black kale
  • Sprig thyme
  • Sprig rosemary
  • small Bunch of parsley, minced

In a large pan fry the onion gently in the olive oil until soft, add the leek and carrots and black pepper and gently fry until softened. Add the water, tomatoes, potatoes, verudette, thyme and rosemary. Take half the beans liquidise with a little water and add to the pot. Cook for 20-30minutes until the root vegetables are just tender then add the Tuscan kale, orange flesh pumpkin and remaining white beans. Cook for a further 10-15mins, add parsley check seasoning and serve garnished with crisp croutons and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional).

Variations You can use any sweet flavoured roots or tubers such as parsnip, sweet potato or parsley root and any dark green leafy vegetables although to be true to its Italian origins and for taste you cannot beat Tuscan Kale.

This recipe was originally posted on on 19/11/2006.