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Bengali Squash with Chickpeas

(recipe, Anjum Anand)


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Introduction

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.

Ingredients

  1. 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  2. Good pinch of asafetida
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. ¼ tsp. panch phoran (see Note, below)
  5. 1 to 2 mild dried red chiles
  6. 1 small onion, peeled and sliced
  7. ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  8. 2 scant tsp. ground cumin
  9. 1 rounded tsp. ground coriander
  10. Salt, to taste
  11. ¾ tsp. sugar, or to taste
  12. 2 tsp. ginger paste
  13. 1¼ lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1½-inch chunks
  14. 1 cup drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  15. ¾ tsp. garam masala
  16. ¾ tsp. fennel seeds, ground

Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Note

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.