Don't you just love the fact that once the calender gets to September/ October, a flurry of festivals begin cropping up all over the world? In India, its Navratri, followed by Diwali, Kartigai, a South Indian festival that makes its appearance anywhere from 15 days to a month & a half after Diwali coinciding with the full moon in the Indian month of Karthik, I guess it commemorates the harvest moon.
Others that come to mind, The Moon Festival celebrated in the Far East, Halloween , Guy Fawkes day, .. Oh boy, the list could potentially go on and on.
I'm not entirely sure, but it may be due to the colder months & shorter days that mankind found ways of socially celebrating events to keep from the depressive nature of this part of the year.
Back to my own little sphere of a comfort zone, the vegetable I've most commonly come to associate with Fall is the big fat Pumpkin. There's a whole Bubba's list of what one could create with this thick skinned fruit, but one that really caught my attention & got me going was this post by D K from the site Chefinyou. rather a tutorial on how to make pumpkin puree. I was freshly back reeling from an awesome book signing session with Iron Chef Bobby Flay
and one of the samples served was a divine pumpkin soup.
That was it, I just HAD to try roasting an entire pumpkin at home. Never mind what I would make out of it.. I would cross that bridge when I came to it.
So off I went, to my neighboring farm,
& picked out a suitable candidate
Came home, cut & quartered ol' Jack,
removed the innards,
& popped the pieces into the oven at 400 F for about 45 minutes.
& Voila!, An indescribably delicious flesh, I could have finished off with a teaspoon, (I almost did). Roasted pumpkin has the aroma of fresh grilled corn with a texture thats out of this world..no salt or pepper needed, at most, a spritz of lime.
Rest assured I would not be up writing this if it were simply a post on roasted pumpkin, This weeks recipe is a Roasted pumpkin, coconut & sesame bisque, inspired by a traditional South Indian pumpkin stew known as 'Thalagam'. Thalagam is served as an offering for Lord Shiva during the festival of thiruvadirai, celebrated in Late December/ January. Its usually paired with jaggery sweetened rice grits known as kali. The combination of redolent nutty spiciness & the earthy sweetness of the unrefined jaggery, the combination is magical. Its worth the prayers!
After brainstorming & clarifying the family recipe with my cousin Uma in Ohio, comes this warming & comforting soup.
Roasted pumpkin, coconut & sesame bisque (serves 2-3)
Coconut Sesame Paste:
1/2 cup fresh frozen grated coconut
1 tablespoon Split dehusked Urad Dal
1 tablespoon split garbanzo beans (chana dal)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds1 teaspoon plain uncooked rice grains
2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree from a roasted pumpkin
1/2-1 teaspoon tamarind extract
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1-2 cup water
Salt to taste
Dollops of creme Fraiche or sour cream
1 tablespoon ghee
1 sprig curry leaves
To obtain the pumpkin puree, cut wedges of pumpkin removing the seeds & the central 'webbing' , brush with olive oil & bake in a 400 F oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. Allow to cool & scoop out the required amount (2 cups) of pumpkin.
- In a skillet on low heat, toast the coconut till it turns a reddish brown. Set aside.
- Using the same pan, dry roast all the
lentils, rice & the fenugreek till they turn a light brown color,
add these to the coconut & repeat the process for the sesame &
arbol chiles (cut the chiles into pieces to facilitate browning). Toast
the sesame till the seeds begin popping.
- Combine all the ingredients together and grind to a smooth paste using as little water as possible. Set aside
- In a crock pot, combine the pumpkin puree, tamarind extract,
turmeric, salt and water and cook on medium heat till the flavors
combine (~ 15 min)
- Add the sesame & coconut spice blend to
the pumpkin mix and simmer on a low heat for about 15 minutes, adding
extra water if the mix is too thick. The predominating aroma will be
that of the toasted sesame.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool. Process in a blender till smooth & strain (the toasted dals & coconut will otherwise add a gritty component to the texture.). Simmer on low heat to maintain the level of warmth you prefer.
- Heat the ghee on low heat, add the curry leaves and allow to fry till they're crisp (but still retain their green color)
- Serve warm with a dollop of Creme Fraiche or sour cream and garnished with the crisp curry leaves.
|'Anai thalai' (elephants head) chutney!|
Entering this dish for Edible Entertainments 'Healthy cooking challenge' .