Growing up, pumpkin and 'dosti" roti (a three layered roti) was one of my absolute favorite meals! Strangely enough, it’s also my 10 year-old-daughter’s favorite.
In my recipe below, cubes of pumpkin are sautéed with simplest of ingredients; olive oil, garlic, onion and the optional hot pepper. It’s steamed until tender, then mashed to a smooth, paste-like consistency. Roasted ground geera (cumin) is also added at the end of cooking to highlight the flavor of the pumpkin. (Mummy swears by the addition of a little brown sugar at the beginning of cooking).
Pumpkin is traditionally eaten for breakfast with roti and served at religious functions and weddings along with a flavorful array of other vegetarian dishes.
In the tiny village where I grew up in Central Trinidad, it was and still is customary that women would gather the day before a “prayers” [religious function] or wedding to prepare enormous quantities of vegetables for the next day’s vegetarian feast. I was a young girl then, but I vividly recall helping to peel and cube what seemed like a ton of pumpkin!
[Picture of "Calabaza" taken at Chaguanas market, Trinidad.]
Assisting in the prep work wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but listening to the banter of the older ladies (and eavesdropping on the latest village gossip) was fun and the thought of the end result - the next day’s feast - was encouraging (will work free for food)! Nowadays, I rarely buy the whole unpeeled pumpkins. Do you blame me? I always look for the peeled and cubed pumpkin in my supermarket or BJ’s.
[Picture taken at Chaguanas market, Trinidad.]
I have roasted pumpkin, added it to soups, callaloo, stews, my green seasoning, “cook up” rice and once I even made a pumpkin cheesecake, but in this recipe it’s the star of the show. Over the years, I have shared our Trinidadian method of preparing pumpkin with many folks via a conversation at the supermarket, on the train, in a park, the ladies room…wherever necessary …Now I am very excited to share this recipe here with those of you who love pumpkin, but are unaware of this very simple method of preparation.
[Squash has a different texture, but is equally delicious.]
This pumpkin dish is satisfying, sumptuous and healthy. I attest my excellent eyesight to all the pumpkin I’ve eaten over the years! (I have roti and rice to thank for my curvaceous hips. Atleast the eyesight is good.)…Not only is pumpkin rich in antioxidants and beta carotene, it’s very low in calories, and a very good source of dietary fiber. But that’s just the wonderful side benefits of eating pumpkin.
[So many varieties of pumpkin in the U.S!
For this recipe I only use Calabaza or Squash..]
The main benefit is the wonderful experience of breaking off a piece of roti, using it to scoop up the pumpkin, excitedly shoving it in your mouth and savoring the inviting combination of flavors! Okay, so I got a little carried away….and yes, it’s that good.
Some pumpkins cook quickly and melt on its own, while others require your time, attention and hard labor to mash. It’s not uncommon to hear some cooks exclaim in our beautiful Trini dialect, “Dat pungkin cook rel good boy, dat was a gooood pungkin”.
Well, fellow foodies, I do hope your pungkin cook rel good!!
Ria's Trinidadian Pumpkin
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled and cubed (butternut squash, calabaza)
4-6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin (geera) (use only half for calabaza)
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons raw brown sugar(optional)
Slices of habanero or scotch bonnet (optional)
Scrub the outside of the pumpkin with a vegetable brush under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Cut in half. Scrape out the fibers and seeds. Dice the pumpkin into 1 - 1.5 inch pieces. Sometimes, I cut the pumpkin into small pieces before peeling, all depends on the mood I'm in.
Grate or mince garlic. Slice onion and hot pepper, if using.
In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add the onion (and hot pepper if using), cook for a few minutes until the onion becomes light golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until translucent.
[Allow the onion to become light golden brown for the best result. Not like this...]
Add pumpkin, stir to coat with the oil. Add salt and (sugar if using). Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the pumpkin is tender, stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick.
The pumpkin will relinquish its juices, depending on the variety of pumpkin. When the pumpkin is cooked through, use the back of the spoon to mash the pumpkin until you have a paste like consistency and there are no chunks. Always scrape down the sides of the pot.
Continue to cook uncovered until any liquid from the pumpkin has evaporated and it begins to stick to the pot.
Stir in cumin and serve with roti, rice or pita bread.
Hope you give this recipe a try,
Also wishing you a Happy Diwali,
May Light always conquer darkness!
Diwali Menu (Vegetarian) using recipes already on my blog (I am working on the others! :-)).
Dessert: Sweet Rice