A while back, gudy2shuz asked me if I had a recipe for 'lal bhoplyachi bakar bhaji' with sesame seeds and peanuts. She even offered me her aaji's (grandmother's) recipe, which was:
"you dice the pumpkin, roast together some dry coconut, khus khus, peanuts and sesame seeds. grind the stuff into a coarse powder. make a phodni of mustard seeds, hing and haldi, saute the pumpkin in it for a bit, cover and cook, then add the powder, some jaggery, red chilli powder and salt. garnish with coriander powder."She added:
"its easy enough, but getting the mixture of sweet/spicy/nutty is at the heart of the puzzle."In my mind, this was already good enough, but she wanted to know the precise proportions. I would have happily given them to her if only I knew how the result is supposed to taste like. Suddenly I felt quite responsible. I searched through some of my cookbooks to see if there was anything like that, and there wasn't. So the next thing was to search around the web, and I found Anita's recipe, which looked very close to what 'gudy' had described. To complete my quest, I checked with a friend if she knew something, and she said that she hadn't heard the term 'baakar bhaji', but there was a recipe in Ruchira that was very similar. Sure enough, it looked like it might be just the thing.
Since pumpkin season is well over now, I was skeptical about how the squash bought in a grocery store out of season would taste, because I have found that winter squashes bought at the local farmers' market are way superlative in taste compared to the others. I found a butternut squash that was grown in Mexico, because waiting until next fall would have been too long. Butternut squash is usually my first choice for making Indian sabjis that call for pumpkin. Acorn squash follows closely, because it also takes to spices very well.
The result was fantastic! I made a few changes to the original, like peeling the skin off instead of keeping it on, and reducing the amount of hing (1/2 teaspoon!). Here is the adapted recipe.
500 gm butternut squash
3 Tablespoons khus khus (white poppy seeds)
3 Tablespoons dried grated coconut
3 Tablespoons charoli nuts (can use peanuts instead)
3-4 pieces of tamarind or 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
6 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 pinches of asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seeds
3/4 teaspoon red chili powder
salt to taste
1-1/2 Tablespoon jaggery
3 teaspoons goda masala
Peel the butternut squash and chop it into large pieces, about 2 inches in length.
Dry roast the khus khus, coconut and nuts for a few minutes until they start to change color. Let it get cool, and grind to a powder. Make a solution with half cup of water and tamarind.
Heat the oil in a kadhai or wok, and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric, methi seeds, and the pieces of squash. Saute for a minute or two, and then cover with a lid for a few minutes or until the squash is almost done. Add 3/4th cup of water, and to it add the ground powder. Add red chili powder, salt, tamarind water, jaggery, and goda masala, and stir it so that all these ingredients form a sort of gravy. By then the squash should be fully cooked too. Best to serve with plain rotis, polis, or parathas.
Thanks gudy2shuz, for introducing me to a new dish which is so good that I will be definitely making it again.