South Indian pumpkin recipe – vegetarian and vegan friendly!

First and foremost, let’s establish the obvious: I’m a terrible blogger. It has been months and I am so sorry. I don’t think apologising every time is going to change anything, so I just hope you’ll understand that a potato kidnapped me and wouldn’t let me blog recipes. Moving on…

I recently found out that not many people have tried pumpkin before. Waaa? You’re crazy! Pumpkin is delicious! So, to expand your taste buds, I have a very simple South Indian pumpkin recipe that you’ll love. Yeah, you’ll love it, marry it and have pumpkin babies… *awkward silence*. This recipe is especially dedicated to my cousin, Khalyani, who is living a dream of a life in Nicaragua. More on that later, first: the recipe for this pumpkin…I-don’t-know-what-the-word-is. It’s not a ‘kootu’ (Tamil for ‘add’ – in essence it’s a dish that has lentils in it, that has less liquid than sambhar, but it’s not dry). It’s also not really a ‘poriyal’ (Tamil for a dish that has been shallow-fried). I guess it’s closer to being a pumpkin poriyal, but it’s not…this isn’t important. Now, where were we? Aha, the recipe!

Firstly, you want to grab a pan, heat it up and to this pan, add gingelly oil. Gingelly oil is pretty much the same as sesame oil, except it has a touch of jaggery (pure, unrefined cane sugar) in it. If you can’t find gingelly oil, you can use normal light sesame oil. To the oil, you want to add half a tsp of mustard seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 tsp of fennel seeds and a tsp of toor dal (optional). If you do use gingelly oil, you’ll notice that it froths, as soon as you add the seeds and dal to it. This is normal, don’t worry. It’s just to do with the melting and heating temperatures of the jaggery in the sesame oil.

As soon as it starts frothing and doing its thing, add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and mix for a literal few seconds. Then, add in the pumpkin. I’ve cut up half a small blue/green pumpkin into small, inch cubes. The pumpkin I used, I believe, is a Queensland blue pumpkin; its skin is a blue/green colour, but the inside is a beautiful orange.

To the pumpkin, add salt to your taste and mix gently. You’ll see that the pumpkin starts to pick up the turmeric and the beautiful orange colour intensifies.

Next, add some crushed red chilli flakes. I added about three-quarters of a tbsp, but obviously this is dependent on your spice intake. Add more or less, that’s all up to you! Give it a good, gentle mix once you have added it.

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After you have mixed the crushed red chilli flakes in, add three-quarters of a cup of cold water and half a tsp of cinnamon powder. Give it a gentle fold. You will most likely notice that the consistency has become a little thick, perhaps a little mushy as well. Typically, this is eaten with some sort of flatbread, so the pumpkin has to be soft. By folding it gently, you will be retaining most of the pumpkin in its normal shape. Once you have folded the cinnamon in, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer for a good ten minutes. Make sure you fold it gently, every so often. The water will reduce and the dish will become less mushy and more dry.

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After ten minutes, it’s done! I really like eating couscous with this – probably not a normal combination, but it is so yum!

There you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below. I hope you all start eating more pumpkin, you’re really missing out. Pumpkin pie doesn’t count!

Continuing from before, Khalyani and Rafał write a brilliant blog about their adventures in Nicaragua, and other parts of Central America. They gave up their consultancy jobs, in Europe, and are now living over there with two languages between them – very brave! Find out more about their ventures and the people they have met during their amazing travels: www.trailwinds.me.

Until next time! (I won’t get kidnapped by a potato, again!)

 

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Know your spices!

 

Hey, you! Yeah, you. Why do you do it? You know what I’m on about. Why do you put turmeric in your chicken noodle soup? Or cumin on your pork chops? Wait, you don’t? Oh…well you should!

For thousands of years, humans have been using natural resources for many reasons. From lighting a fire to cooking food. When it comes to spices, the world is full of flavour. Our ancestors have given us an amazing palate; they have introduced so many bombsauce flavours into our lives. So, this is post is to them. If only they knew what this was…

Around 2000BC, spices were traded in the Middle East, Eastern and Southern Asia, predominantly trading cinnamon, pepper and herbs. This wasn’t bought nor used purely for cooking, however. Spices were used for a range of other procedures, including embalming. However, eventually someone decided it belongs in food and the rest is history. NOT. Ok, it is. NOT. I’ll stop now.

I’m going to give you the load-down on a few of my favourite spices/flavours and tell you why they are so special. I may update this in the near future with my other favourites, but for now – here we go.

TURMERIC:

Source: http://www.hangthebankers.com/turmeric-can-help-regenerate-the-liver-groundbreaking-new-research/
Source: http://www.hangthebankers.com/turmeric-can-help-regenerate-the-liver-groundbreaking-new-research/

I have a problem with turmeric. I can’t stop using it; there is nothing like it. It’s like a mound of pure gold, in my eyes. Turmeric has a warming, peppery, earthy essence to it. Due to its vibrant golden colour, not only is it used to flavour food, but it is also used to colour food, naturally. Raw turmeric comes from a plant called Curcuma longa and it’s related to the ginger family. Before it was used in food preparation, it was recognised for its medicinal purposes. Ayurveda, an Indian practice of traditional medicine, hailed the use of turmeric for a range of infections and diseases – including shingles, eczema, gastrointestinal disease and liver disorders. More recent studies have discovered that a substance in turmeric, called curcumin, has shown evidence of protecting colon cells from free radicals which can damage cellular DNA, particularly important as the colon has a rapid cell turnover.

Growing up, I have always watched my Mum and Grandmother wash fish and meat in turmeric. My Mother told me that turmeric was antimicrobial, but I never believed her. How wrong was I? There have been so many studies proving the antimicrobial activity of turmeric/Curcuma longa/curcumin. So, next time, try a little turmeric in your food. Not only will you benefit from a gorgeous ray of yellow colouring, but apparently it’s not that bad for you either.

Selecting and storing: The colour of turmeric is not a criterion for its quality. Different plants in different regions will produce different colours. Turmeric powder should be kept in an airtight container, however fresh turmeric rhizome should be kept in the refrigerator.

By the way, turmeric stains. If you end up with yellow hands and find a yellow stain on your clothes, don’t blame me. You should have worn an apron. Your hands will wash off, don’t worry.

BLACK PEPPER:

Source: http://www.rhinobutt.com/history-of-black-pepper-the-most-popular-and-most-important-spice-in-history/
Source: http://www.rhinobutt.com/history-of-black-pepper-the-most-popular-and-most-important-spice-in-history/

My life. I have black pepper on everything. If I could put it on my cereal, I would. Black pepper is an amazing spice, it has such a strong, robust, definitive flavour. Native to the Western Ghats of Kerala (India), black pepper was distributed to Southeast Asia through Hindu colonists, migrating from India to Indonesia and other countries. Being one of the most traded commodities of the spice trade, it has the longest history of export – dating back at least 4000 years! Traditional medicine limited the medicinal properties of black pepper to only digestive disorders, however we’re in the cool era and modern medicine has shown its benefits to not only digestion, but also to help with cigarette withdrawal, sore throats, diabetes, blood circulation, vertigo and gastrointestinal diseases. Do you see why I love it so much? I can’t contain my excitement *throws whale at window*.

Selecting and storing: Freshly ground pepper is always a must. Grind it yourself, if you can. You’ll enjoy it much more. Whole peppercorns kept in an airtight container will keep forever. Powdered black pepper will keep for about 3 months. Organically grown black pepper is never irradiated, therefore it retains its natural levels of vitamin C.

(no animals were harmed during the writing of this post…)

CINNAMON:

Source: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/fitness-coach/The-Best-Anti-Inflammatory-Spices-Cinnamon-20120530.html
Source: http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/fitness-coach/The-Best-Anti-Inflammatory-Spices-Cinnamon-20120530.html

I never really appreciated cinnamon until very recently. I now can’t have french toast without homemade cinnamon sugar. The Egyptians used cinnamon (and a related spice called cassia) to perfume embalming projects. It can’t have been too bad smelling of cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon is even mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in anointing oil. Arab traders brought the spice to Europe and it was a hit amongst the wealthy. Also, according to legends, Roman emperor Nero burned as much cinnamon as he could find on the funeral pyre of his second wife to atone his role in her death. Tut tut, bad Nero. You can’t kill someone and then burn some cinnamon to make yourself feel better. Silly Nero.

Today, we are showcased two types of cinnamon – Ceylon and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon). Cassia cinnamon is predominantly found in Indonesia and it has a stronger flavour than Ceylon cinnamon, however it is the cheaper cinnamon out of the two. This is typically what you will find at your local supermarket. Ceylon cinnamon, which is mostly produced in Sri Lanka, has a sweeter flavour and is used in baking and hot drinks. But why is cinnamon so fantastic? It has unique healing properties which are found in its essential oils, when in bark form. The active components of these oils are cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol. These substances are very beneficial in its anti-clotting and anti-microbial properties, as well as helping control diabetes and improving brain function. Bet you want some soft French toast now. With cinnamon sugar. Yes you do, don’t lie. I’m psychic, I know. It’s all that cinnamon I’ve been eating.

Selecting and storing: The more “red” in colour the cinnamon stick is, the stronger the flavour will be. When I say red, I don’t mean McDonalds red, nor do I mean blood red. If it looks more like a darker brown, than a light dusty brown, then it’s probably worth a buy. If you store both the sticks and powder in airtight containers, they will last you years! Cinnamon powder will last up to 3 years and cinnamon sticks can last up to 4 years. If either fades in colour, dispose of them. They’ve lost its flavour and, well, it’s just a waste of money.

CUMIN:

Source: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/05/how-to-use-cumin-seeds-spices-lamb-recipe.html
Source: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/05/how-to-use-cumin-seeds-spices-lamb-recipe.html

Cumin is nice. The end. JUST KIDDING! Cumin is a deliciously nutty spice. Though it was originally cultivated in Iran and other Mediterranean countries, archaeological sites have shown its presence in ancient Egyptian sites. Today, it is grown in China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Mexico, Chile and India. It, as many spices do, has a mass of benefits; immune system regularity, cancer prevention (it’s an anti-carcinogenic) and good digestion – to name a few.

Selecting and storing: It’s best to buy whole cumin seeds and grind them yourself, rather than buy the powder. Cumin powder loses its flavour quickly so you’re just sprinkling mildy-flavoured dust really. Does dust taste nice? Does it?

If you have any concerns over spices, talk to it. It listens and sometimes it’ll behave. Just kidding! If you do have any concerns, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Please do not eat something and say ninjaeatsfood told you to do so. Though natural foods shouldn’t disturb your body, allergies do exist. So that’s my precaution to you. Get tested, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you want to, and get in the kitchen! Not because you’re a woman…I’m a woman and I wouldn’t say…*sigh* I’ll stop.

Have fun cooking!