As a kid, I was not much of an eater. Ma still tells me tales of how she struggled to put any food in my mouth. In addition to that, I was an extremely slow eater. In the hopes of making me eat faster, Ma eventually made this rule that the last one to finish the meal would clean the table. But, nothing changed! There were, however, a few such dishes that I used to eat without any fuss and on those days, I was the first to finish the meal.
Pumpkin has always been my all-time favorite ingredient. Especially, when it prepared along with fish head. It sounds bizarre to many but it’s a delicacy in Bengali cuisine! A vegetarian version of the same dish would be to add an abundance of spinach instead of the fish head and it is called Kumro Palak.
Of course, Ma makes the same dish using the pumpkin leaves and stems. But, I couldn’t find those leaves or stems out here. Also, out here in US, I find the taste of pumpkin not as sweet as the ones that I grew up eating. The taste of acorn squash matched much better and it pairs quite tastefully with spinach.
One of the key spices that I tend to always use with pumpkin or squash is fennel seeds. It’s highly aromatic and gives a sweet warm aroma. If you can’t find it, a good substitute would be to use cumin seeds or caraway seeds. I try not to over spice the dish and instead keep it subtle with just a few whole spices and pinch of chili powder. I also like to keep the squash bites chunkier but you could always mash it.
With steamed rice on the side, it’s a meal that always takes me back home.