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.
- 1 acorn squash, cut into bite size with skin on
- 3 cups roughly chopped spinach
- 1 medium size red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ inch ginger, finely grated
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- Heat some oil in a pan and drop the fennel seeds. Once they start to sizzle, drop the bay leaf, garlic and ginger. Give it a stir and scatter the onion. Sprinkle some salt and cook onion for a couple of minutes.
- Drop the acorn squash into the pan and sprinkle some more salt and turmeric. Give it a mix.
- Place a lid on the pan, lower the heat to medium low and allow it to cook until acorn squash gets softened and tender. If you find acorn squash sticking to the bottom of the pan, just sprinkle some water.
- Once done, add cumin powder, chili powder and scatter the spinach leaves. Give it a stir and cook for a few more minutes. Check for salt and add any, if required.
- Finally, pour some ghee and serve warm with steamed rice or roti.