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Posts Tagged ‘Pumpkin’

imageRam and I have been clearing out the pantry and using up items rarely used. And one of them being couscous. My experience with couscous is quite limited. I bought it with the hope of doing some salads or dishes but never got around to it. But every time I think of couscous I still recall the couscous soaked in ragout which I had in “Ragu” which was sublime.

I first scoured the internet for ragout recipes but I didn’t have ingredients for most of them. I lost my patience and said you know what I am just going to let my creativity out loose.

It was so yummy I just had to write this down. And fairly healthy too. Come on what can beat that! Flavours and healthy food in the same sentence, how often does one hear that!

Ingredients:

2-3 red onions chopped long
1 head of garlic
2 tsp chilli flakes
4 tomatoes roughly chopped
2-3 tsp of capers
1/4 pumpkin chopped into small cubes
1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 pinch of nutmeg powder
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 tbsp of honey/ 1 tbsp of brown sugar
4 cups of stock
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

For the couscous:
2 cups couscous
2.5 cups hot stock

Method:
Heat olive oil in the pan. Throw in the chilli flakes, garlic and onion and sweat it down until it starts to brown. Add your cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and salt. Then throw in your capers and tomatoes. Let the tomatoes shrink in the heat and then add your pumpkin and give it a good old toss. After a couple of minutes or so, add your sugar/honey and then pour in your stock. Close with a lid, turn down the heat to medium and let the mixture stew nicely for a good 30-40 minutes with the occasional stir.

This is the same concept as tagine. When something is cooked with a closed lid the flavours expand exponentially. The ragout takes on the vapours, aromas, its own juices heightening the flavour to extents unimaginable. The explosion of flavours is something undeniable even for a fussy eater.

When that’s stewing on, add 2 cups of couscous to a saucepan/bowl. Add the 2.5 cups of stock. Use cling wrap to close the couscous and let it sit for 5 minutes. After this time, remove cling warp, using a fork fluff out the couscous. Just be mindful different couscous have different cooking instructions. So cook the couscous according to your packet instructions.

When serving, portion out some couscous in a pasta bowl. Ladle out that gorgeous ragout and here comes yet another surprise. Some of my avocados were starting to ripen, so for garnish I just shaved off the avos on top and the creaminess of avocados just worked. I don’t know how, somehow everything gelled and made sense. Were it not for remembering portion control I would have gone back for seconds or thirds.

What better way to end your Sunday than a hearty home cooked meal that takes your taste buds around the world.

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Baked Pumpkin

My stirrings for something fragrant, colorful and untried came back with a renewed vengeance after a long long time of straying from flavourful food. But I don’t know what flavour it was that my palate was looking for. So when my colleague Ayesha said she was going to visit her daughter in Morocco, it was as if something clicked and fell into place. As she narrated how much she was looking forward to this trip, the beautiful scenes of Morocco which she painted made by brain turn into a projector playing out the scenes on a 70mm screen in Eastman colour. The effects were so real, the colours were glimmering, the sun shining and the dust rising off the dirt roads, I could literally smell the air smelling of sunshine, dust and spices. Scenes of rustic architecture, markets lined with colourful silks, mouth-watering foods and spices, people preparing food in traditional earthen ovens, mud houses, children playing on the street, the hawkers shouting out at the top of their lungs etc played harmoniously with some middle eastern soundtrack, that it felt almost as if I were witness to the things going around.

My fascination for Moroccan food began with Ayesha describing all these enticing foods that I could only imagine in my head. And I thought, I really have to try something out. And, soon!

And there came an opportunity. My aunt and uncle were flying out to India and were going on a two month holiday. So my aunt called me up and said, “We are leaving tomorrow, why don’t you and Ram come for dinner. We can spend time and it will be great to have a potluck before we go”. First thing I thought of was, I need to buy some vegetables. Nothing interesting at home except a pumpkin, some kumara and carrots.

I finished work, headed to our nearby grocery store. Damn! Out of luck, they had already closed as it was long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I was in panic mode, I called Ram on my mobile and told him the shops were shut. He said “I think we’ll just make some pulao and go”. I told him that I’ll figure something out.

I came back home, got onto the internet first thing. I googled some pumpkin based dishes. The search returned some recipes. Third link on the page, my eyes kind of zeroed in on it. Not sure how! But I guess if you have been thinking about that particular thing, your mind starts noticing things that are relevant to it. Well in this case, my eyes traced out the word Baked Pumpkin(Morocco). And I had it. The interesting recipe that I was looking for, for the impromptu potluck. Baked Pumpkin with Caramelised Onions and Almonds. The moment I read the heading, my mind went into a tizzy of craving.

I scanned through the ingredients and found that every last one was easily something we kept at home. And I got up immediately and started hacking away at the pumpkin. The recipe was so simple too. The recipe asked for Sugar Pumpkin. I didn’t have that, but it was too last-minute I resorted to using whatever pumpkin was available at home. And of course, I had to have another enemy too, right? Time. Barely an hour to go.  The recipe said that I had to bake the pumpkins in the oven with some water to make them tender for a good 40-45 minutes. Who has that time! I cut the pumpkin into square chunks and dunked them in the microwave steamer for a head start on getting the pumpkins tender for a quick 5 minutes. While the pumpkins turned tender in the microwave, I chopped up some 3 onions Julienne, and slivered some readily blanched  almonds(about 4 tbsp). Splashed a bit of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) instead of vegetable oil in a saucepan and threw in the onions and sautéed it until it turned deep brown and then added the slivered almonds. I got some raisins out and plumped them in hot water, drained it and added this to the onion-almond mixture. Then in went 3-4 tsp sugar, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of cinnamon powder. And the burst of aroma of the sugar and cinnamon melding hit the high heavens and reminded me once more as to why I loved food.

I wish I had taken some pictures of it. But I shall post some soon. Below is the original recipe for the traditionalists.

Moroccan Baked Pumpkin with Caramelised Onions and Almonds

2 pounds pumpkin, preferably sugar pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup seedless raisins,
plumped in warm water and drained
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin into 2-inch chunks. Place them in a ovenproof dish. Add the water and cover tightly. Bake until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel the pumpkin and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onions until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the almonds, the raisins, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are caramelised, 15 to 20 minutes. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the peeled pumpkin. Return to the oven and bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and serve immediately.

If you try it, do let me know how it turned out. Adios!!!

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