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Bengali Squash with Chickpeas
(recipe, Anjum Anand)
Butternut squash is one of my favorite varieties of pumpkin, as it is smoother and creamier than the large orange pumpkins we see at Halloween. It is a wonderful match for the earthiness of the chickpeas, especially when paired with these sweet and earthy spices. These ingredients and flavors have a definitive West Bengali flair.
This is a fantastic vegetarian autumnal main course (add more beans or some cubes of paneer) or a great side dish to meat or chicken dishes. You can vary the beans (cannellini or butter beans would also be delicious) or make it with sweet potatoes.
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- Good pinch of asafetida
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp. panch phoran (see Note, below)
- 1 to 2 mild dried red chiles
- 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- 2 scant tsp. ground cumin
- 1 rounded tsp. ground coriander
- Salt, to taste
- ¾ tsp. sugar, or to taste
- 2 tsp. ginger paste
- 1¼ lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1½-inch chunks
- 1 cup drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- ¾ tsp. garam masala
- ¾ tsp. fennel seeds, ground
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the asafetida, bay leaf, panch phoran, and chiles; cook over low heat for about 1 minute.
- Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, and ground coriander, along with the salt, sugar, and ginger paste. Give the pan a stir, add a splash of water, and cook for another minute.
- Add the squash and pour in ⅔ cup water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the squash is cooked through, around 15 to 18 minutes.
- Stir in the chickpeas, garam masala, fennel-seed powder, and a splash of water. Cook for another minute and serve. The dish should be moist but not gravied.
Panch phoran is a Bengali spice blend that consists of fenugreek, mustard, fennel, cumin, and nigella seeds all mixed together in equal proportions. It is available ready-mixed in Indian supermarkets.