Cooking

Be Pumpkin ready

12:32 PM

homemade pumpkin spice mix

Many regions of the Northern emisphere are seeing a change of season, and are falling into my favourite of all : Fall. The season I actually feel robbed off here in India and miss a lot. It is that time of the year that sees less long days but not yet too short, cooler yet not cold temperatures, and an amazing display of colours as the trees start changing.
Fall is something I always associated with hiking, cycling through the countryside and sunny afternoons sipping tea and eating Fall fruits. It was also that time of the year we would gradually fall back into a diet of steamed and oven roasted goodies having had our share of barbecue and salads over the Summer. And while Switzerland doesn't have Halloween and Thanksgiving, pumpkins are no less part of fall for us. With many sweet and savoury dishes made with vegetables from the squash family.

This is the thing that fortunately hasn't changed much over here, pumpkins are at their ripest, and tastiest around that time of the year in India too. And while I can't soak my eyes with golden and crimson hued nature sights, I can still please my taste buds with the familiar taste of pumpkin, apples and warm spices.

You won't find whole pumpkin easily in the market in India. Not that it matters to me, since as I said, I don't celebrate Halloween and have little need for one. You find a nice orange fleshed coloured one year round, it is sweet in taste and goes really well for soups, pies and cakes, and as I said, they are at their best right now. They are sold in slices in most supermarket and by most sabzi wallahs.
What you won't find ready made in India however, is pumpkin spice. Which, is a mix of different spices that are all easily found and sold across India. So much so, you are good to make your own and use at will in all these warm Fall and Winter dishes.

pumpkin spice mix recipe

The recipe isn't of my own invention, I found it a few years ago here. I buy all the spices already ground in the market, since I often use them in their separate forms in other dishes. All you need to do, is mix all the ingredients above, and store them in an airtight container (I have a tiny Tupperware one that is conveniently the right size to store the quantity in question).
This spice mix can be used in every recipe that calls for pumpkin spice as well as "All spice". It can flavour your chai or coffee as well.

During pumpkin season, I also tend to make batches of pumpkin purée for the freezer, this is a quick and easy way to ensure you'll always have some to bake a pie or a batch of cupcakes at hand. Simply dice your raw pumpkin, boil it in a little water and mash with a potato masher once the cubes are soft enough and boil a few minutes more to have a thick yet not all dry purée. Let it cool and store it in the freezer in ziplock bags or freezer proof containers.
Do not drain the water, it will flush the flavour away, if the purée is too liquid, boil it a bit longer so the liquid can reduce on its own.

Needless to say I already made my first batch of pumpkin cupcake for the season. But that is the topic of an other blog post to come...

26 comments

  1. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Pumpkin sabzi with puris taste heavenly specially with a hint of desi ghee. Talking of Pumpkins, you have not tasted Petha which is made with white pumpkin.

    http://www.indobase.com/recipes/details/petha.php

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2o5KHlUtOU

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0Fc-FGCx5A

    Apple

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    Replies
    1. I have never tasted Petha, that looks tempting. It's funny but I used to see white pumpkin a lot in Bangalore, and I don't think I have seen it at all in Mumbai. I will have to look more carefully this year, maybe I missed it all together.

      And now I will have to try eating a pumpkin sabzi dish with puri and ghee, that really do sound like a heavenly combination.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:47 AM

      It is surprising that you have not come across petha in Lucknow and also pumpkin sabzi with puri. Pumpkin subzi with puri is very popular in U.P. Different cities of U.P. are known for particular food items, Benaras- Chaat and Paan, Mathura- Peda, Lucknow- Biryani and Kebabs, Allahabad- Guavas.

      Talking of snacks, I know that snack making is a popular family activity in U.P. households. In every festival all the women of the house get together to make delicious snacks like gujjia, laddoo, papads, mataris etc., and then they are stored in cans and distributed among relatives and neighbors. More like the cookie baking tradition in the west.

      This snack making is prevalent among other communities too. I remember my mother making tonnes of bengali snacks after Dussera. After the durga idol is immersed, bengalis greet each other saying "Shubho Bijoya" (Happy Vijay Dashmi). People visit each other's house and touch the feet of elders and are served sancks. My mom used to make delicious coconut laddos and other snacks for the entire neighborhood. People used to come to our house for mum's delicacies. These days people are too busy to visit each other's houses for greetings and expecting your wife to make snacks on festivals feels more like a torture because she is already over burdened. Here is a bengali pumpkin dish

      http://www.ecurry.com/blog/indian/curries/dry/kumro-chenchki-stir-fried-pumpkin-with-bengali-five-spice-for-a-food-lovers-journey/

      http://www.ahomemakersdiary.com/2012/10/kumro-chingri-botti-pumpkin-and-shrimp.html

      This is lauki dish

      http://seasonalflavours.net/lau-chingri-bengali-recipe/

      This is something interesting

      http://www.ahomemakersdiary.com/2012/04/macher-matha-die-lau-ghanto-bottle.html

      My mother used to make this dish, it was her specialty

      http://krishnokolee.blogspot.in/2009/11/mutton-keema-ghugney.html

      Apple

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    3. Thank you so much for all these lovely recipes, They look awesome and I will definitely try them.
      My in-laws usually eat store bought snacks, the only sweets I have seen my MIL do are ladoos, kheer and rabdi, oh and gajar ka halwa.

      I think our lives are hectic the world over, people usually buy the ready made cookie dough and bake their cookies from these instead of making the dough from scratch. Gifting little bags of baked cookies is a pretty traditional thing in my homeland, and those who don't even have the time to bake can now buy the standard Swiss holiday cookies from the supermarket and repackage it nicely at home. That is the one thing I could never do, Christmas has to come with the home filled with the smell of baking cookies :-)

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12:11 PM

      Here are few bengali sweet snacks:

      http://www.scratchingcanvas.com/2014/01/pithe-puli-poushmakar-sankranti-special.html


      http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Traditional-Bengali-Sweet-(Sandesh)

      Salty Snacks:

      http://www.peekncook.com/Show-A-Recipe/42105/kucho-nimki

      http://foodpunch.com/vegetable-chops-bengal-style-recipe/


      Apple

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  2. which pumpkin do you use usually? I find them to not be too fleshy so just wondering which one you have.

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    Replies
    1. I use the one that has a yellow green skin and an orange flesh.

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  3. We tend to get the 'not too fleshy' ribbed, round & flattened pumpkins with sort of a grayish cast this time of year in Nepal. In California we called them 'cheese' pumpkins. (Guess cause they looked like cheese?) Next month we'll get the greenish yellow fleshy pumpkins. You can buy an entire pumpkin or just a piece her in Nepal, Nepalis dry pumpkin to preserve it also.
    One of my friends who worked at the famous 'Chez Panisse' bakery in California was horrified when I told her I boiled my pumpkin. Evidently to get the most flavor out of your pumpkin you must dry roast or bake the pumpkin NOT boil or steam it. So this year I cleaned the pumpkin & placed it on a foil lined tray in the toaster oven set to 180C. An hour later the pumpkin pieces were still not tender. (I don't know what I did wrong, maybe because the 'cheese' type pumpkins have less sugar in them & are firmer fleshed than the sugary fleshy pie pumpkins so popular in the US?) Anyway I dumped the whole lot into boiling water let it simmer til tender & pureed it. Lesson learned.
    Interesting pumpkin pie spice mix, I use my Grandma's it has cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I tried roasting a variety that is a flat ribbed pumpkin with an orange skin and not much flesh once with the same disastrous result, so I just boil them for that reason, I haven't tried with the green and yellow skin variety we have here, maybe I should

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    2. I just baked a cherry & almond tart in my piece of crap Back & Decker toaster oven. The temperature is so off on this oven it is a misery to bake in. I have an oven thermometer that shows the temperature to be anywhere from 50-70F lower than what the oven is set at. Are you happy with your oven & what brand & model is it? Any advice on what brand of toaster oven to buy in India/Nepal? I thought Black & Decker was at least a mediocre brand.

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    3. I bake in my microwave/convection oven, it's from Kenstar and it is still working now, I bought it in 2006. It is starting to show sign of age, the microwave mode no longer work on anything but HIGH, the turntable stopped working, and the dial to select the minutes is a bit temperamental. The convection mode still works great though, and this is what really matters, I rarely use the microwave mode, it came handy for thawing food, but now the defrost mode is not working, and I just plan ahead a bit better. The only thing that sucks a little with Kenstar is the customer service, they take forever to come fix your problems, and that is the reason why I am not bothering calling them for the microwave mode and turntable problem. The appliance is too old to even bother spending money on it, and I don't want to give myself a headache calling and nagging them to come have a look.

      I'm thinking about buying an LG next, that is the one brand we never had much problem with in any of the electronics and appliances we owned over the year, and when there is a problem, they come to your place within 24 hours to check what the problem is, and keep in touch with you if they have problem locating the replacement part, as it was the case with our washing machine once.

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  4. Okay, how can I order a 100 of these?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Hi, since you are interested in reading, I got the following two articles for you. It sheds light on the changing man women relationship in India. Very interesting

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/brunch-stories/sex-lies-and-the-threat-of-rape/article1-1260527.aspx

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/brunch-stories/sex-lies-and-the-threat-of-rape/article1-1260527.aspx

    Apple

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    Replies
    1. I read it already :-) Seema Goswami has a blog on which she publish all her column from HT brunch. I love her writting style and insight on many topics. And as usual she is spot on in this one. I think what India needs is to educate people on what is rape and what is not. Some ladies are indeed abusing the term and make real victims look bad.
      Chalk that, I think sex education in schools is a much needed topic. I don't know where politicians got the idea it would pervert the youth, because in all countries where it is a compulsory module in school people become sexually active later, and there are less rape too.

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  6. Anonymous12:14 PM

    I have an interesting video on how society perceived man and women, involving a girl and boy. It is a very thought provoking video

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1JADWjEajg

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That video is the reason why we should stop this nonsense of segregating genders, making sure boys and girls don't ever learn to live together. Stop assuming that all men are rapist and teach the girls to know the difference between one and an honest guy. We live in an era during which expecting girls to stay home and only interact with a husband or a brother is ridiculous and unrealistic and our Polititians would do well to stop holding dear to archaic ideals. The world change, envolve, and one must adapt. I fear that if India doesn't introspect on the gender inequalities issue ( both genders) we are going to head down a violent path :-(

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    2. Anonymous4:15 PM

      The problem in India is that love is not acceptable. Even the most liberal of parents have problems with love marriages. It is nothing unusual it is a natural reaction in-built in us. That is why when a relationship fails, consensual sex become rape, because if a girl were to admit that she was intimate with a boy, that itself can bring bad name to the family. The girls do not have anything to get back at the guy except a charge of rape. Our society does not allow a girl to admit such relationships. Then a rape/kidnapping charge becomes a face saver for the family. However, it is grave injustice to the boy who is not only put behind bars but also separated from her love. I always believe that man women relationship is very complicated and undefined in India. There are lot of forces at play caste, religion, patriarchy, each creating its own mess. We are also evolving at a break neck speed which does not help matter either. The liberal educated society tries to create a over simplistic narrative to India's complex social problems which is way off the mark.

      The concept of sex is also shrouded in darkness. Many girls have absolutely no idea what to expect since good girls should not know about it. Actually, it comes a rude surprise to them. They did not know that marriage involves this. Some get pregnant,when they don't want to, because they have absolutely no idea. When they don't have an idea, they cannot impress upon their husbands to take precaution. Every boy and girl who is about to marry, should have a basic idea so that they can plan their future better.

      Many boys and girls learn from bollywood, which is a bad teacher. As a women said "we are told that men are evil, and one day married to one of them". Men know too much, women don't know anything. It is recipe of disaster. I read about a couple who could not conceive because they did not know what to do. For most Indians, love/sex/duties etc all come in one packet which creates more confusion. You have to suddenly grow up fast after marriage. It is one hell of a roller coaster ride. We need a sexual revolution, not like the swinging sixties but a more mature and open discussion about sexuality. Free men and women from stereotypes and let them breathe easily.

      Finally, how much freedom is too much. We are all for inter mingling of sexes but are horrified by its consequences. This fear is not unfound in a conservative society where the stakes are high. People look down upon this unease but I think you have to be an Indian to properly understand this fear. Sorry for being so explicit, I hope I did not offend you, but is something I had on my mind a long time.


      http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/in-my-own-company-in-a-cosmopolitan-city-i-know-women-who-were-horrified-on-the-first-night/

      Apple

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    3. The mature and open sexual discussion is exactly what sex education is about in school in Switzerland, we start at age 12 with the basics of how babies are made, and what changes puberty brings to both boys and girls. Boys are made to listen to talk about periods, sanitary pads and what it all mean. Girls are made to listen about boys having their voice change and suddenly feeling certain urges and desires. By the time we are 14 we are told what is consensual sex, and what is not, and what is defined as legal or illegal as per the Swiss penal code, back home the sexual majority age is placed at 16 but a 16 years old should not be in a relationship with a person of 18 and above, if any party files a complain, it will be throughly examined by the judicial authorities, 14 years old know all this to be ready and know the law and their rights. it is the age we also start looking at what a condom looks like, and how it is put on, the educator usually used a banana as a prop I kid you not. We have sex ed until we reach the age of 18 in school, each year the topic becomes a bit more mature, the idea being that by then a kid knows what it all means, implies and has all the cards to make an informed decision, the course is given by specialised educator once a year, these educators have a psychology degree too if I am not mistaken. Their job is to help teenagers with raging hormones get the right infos and separate the emotions out of the actual sexual act.
      I think this is exactly that kind of course India needs, it is not trashy as some put it, but gives the right scientific explanation to teenagers who have no freaking ideas of what is going on with their own bodies and an outlet to ask questions about things to a trained professional. As I said, the countries in which such sex ed program's have a reduced percentage of STD, teen pregnancies and the age at which kids loose their virgity is also later than in countries where the information given is minimal or not given at all.

      And yes I heard stories of married couples in India who didn't know what to do after being married or even how to conceive simply because nobody explained anything to them. Maybe a couple of marriage preparation classes before tying the knot couple be an acceptable thing culturally.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous12:19 PM

    This is the another version of the same video. It shows how biased society is against the men

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uK-WQ_Zp18

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous4:00 PM

    I've observed that most Indians don't use yellow pumpkin in their cuisine. Maybe few people in the north. Especially in south The only thing they use it for is to ward off evil eye. A superstitious bunch those Indians!!
    In fact they use that long gourd like thing aka kaddu for making desserts and gravies. Until today I have never seen them use in any kind of dish. In the west pumpkins are widely used for pies and soups. Especially pumpkin puree is an essential in gourmet cooking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think pumpkin is used in dishes in some part of North India, Bengali cuisine has savoury dishes using the Orange variety, and so has the North East. I haven't seen it used in South India, and it seems in Maharashtra it is only used for sweet dishes if I go by what my maid claims, she says the only way she knows pumpkin is prepared is with milk and sugar.

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  9. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I like Indian kheer and I want to make pumpkin kheer and cupcakes while its available. But here in Hyd we don't have pumpkin with orange skin like we get in the west just green yellow colour with an orange inside. Is it the right one?

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    Replies
    1. Yes this is the one! It has a bright orange flesh and a green-brown skin. The flesh is sweet and I have been using it for pies and cupcakes without problems at all.

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  10. Anonymous5:17 PM

    Ok thanks. The orange ones did not look so fleshy. They look kind of different. I was in a fix as to which was the correct one to use in cakes and soups.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ones with an orange skin are dry, and do not work well for cakes and pies, you can't even roast them to yield purée. Definitely stay away from these. I buy my green skinned pumpkin already cut, just like in the picture. That way I can see how ripe the flesh is inside. You need to look for a bright orange thick flesh.

      Delete

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