One of my favorite cuisines is Indian food because of the rich flavors that are combined into amazing dishes. I don't think I really even ate much Indian food before I was married but tried it while visiting larger cities with my husband, as well as a nearby Indian restaurant that we have grown to love. However, what I have realized in the process of learning how to cook this food is that there are many different types/styles of Indian food, depending on the region you are cooking from, as well as the fact that Indian restaurant food is quite different from what most Indian people eat in their homes everyday. I have bought a couple good Indian cookbooks that I have studied and tried to learn from and now have accumulated quite a few spices/herbs that are often used in their cooking. However, with just a small investment in about 5 spices (some you may already have), you can make some very tasty Indian dishes. I like the fact that, while much of the Indian food is spicy hot, when you make it at home, you can omit or temper down the heat to your liking and yet still enjoy the wonderful flavors. In addition, although Indian restaurant food is quite expensive, you can make many dishes very cheaply at home. Since I have been trying to cook more dishes with beans for my family, I often like using Indian recipes because they take the lowly bean from oh-hum to oh-yum!
this is the masala dabba I bought to hold some of the spices I frequently use- includes tumeric (outer left and continuing clockwise), cardamom, fennel seed, black mustard seed, ground ancho chili powder, cumin seed and black salt (center)
This recipe I share here was inspired by a Green Pumpkin Curry recipe that I have enjoyed making quite a few times. A few years ago, I picked up a small, thick cookbook at a local craft store titled Greatest Ever Indian for about $5. While I have not made many of the recipes in the book, there are a lot of nice pictures illustrating the steps and many of them are simple dishes with a variety of ingredients and ranging from sides to main dishes to breads, appetizers and desserts. When making this recipe, I never saw or found green pumpkin but it said I could substitute ordinary pumpkin. So I also figured that since butternut squash is in the pumpkin family, then that should also work well. This most recent time I made this, I decided to add in some dal I had- I believe it is moong dal, which is very quick cooking and mild in flavor, as well as some extra cooking liquid. You can omit the beans, if desired and reduce the cooking liquid, or substitute some red lentils. This dish comes together pretty quickly- in about 30 minutes, and is very rich in antioxidants from not only the spices but also the squash and beans.
- 2-3 Tbsp oil
- 1 large onions, sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (may substitute 1/2 tsp ground cumin if you don't have seeds)
- 1/2 - 3/4 tsp black mustard seed (optional)
- 1 1/2 - 2 pounds butternut squash (1 large), peeled, deseeded and cubed
- 1 tsp amchur/amchoor- dried mango powder (optional, but adds a nice flavor)
- 1 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp black salt (optional- may use adobo seasoned salt or other salt)
- 1/2 tsp chili powder (not the chili powder blend)- (optional)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger * (may substitute 1 tsp dried ginger- not quite as good)
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed/made into paste
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth- or may use vegetable broth or salted water
- 1 cup moong dal (or split lentils), sorted and rinsed
- 10 dried apricots, chopped
- 1 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and curry powder, stirring occasionally, until a light golden brown color.
- Add the cubed squash or pumpkin to the skillet and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes over low heat.
- Mix in the amchur powder, tumeric, salt, chili powder, ginger and garlic cloves together in a small bowl.
- Add the spice mixture to the squash mixture, stirring well to mix.
- Add the broth or water, rinsed moong dal or lentils, apricots and fenugreek, then cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes or until beans are soft and slightly creamy, stirring occasionally.
*ginger is easy to keep on hand ready to use if you peel it/chop into large chunks after bringing it home from the store, place it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Then when you need it, simply remove a piece or two and either grate it or thinly slice/chop it. It is actually easier to work with when it is slightly frozen. This will keep for a long time in the freezer. It is great in chicken soups, with bean dishes, smoothies with coconut milk, etc.
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