Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beta carotene powerhouse - the pumpkin

Pumpkins are naturally chock full of vitamins, anti -oxidants,alpha and beta carotene.They are low in fat and calories but exceptionally nutrient dense.Which means they are very good for you.Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A, are a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.A single serving of pumpkin provides 245% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A!

I never ate pumpkin until I was married into S's family as we never cooked pumpkin at my mother's place.But I took one bite of this subtly flavored and gently stir fried dish and boy was I hooked onto it! Later when we moved to the US,I went pumpkin pie crazy and the holiday times were horrid.With all the pumpkin pies slowly helping me morph into a pumpkin myself!

Yerra gumidikai (red pumpkin) koora

But here's a healthier way to enjoy this vegetable(or is it a fruit?).After a quick Google search and was relieved to find that there were a zillion results with the same question.It's a fruit!
The pumpkin-y flavor in this dish is not overwhelmed with the spices and you can taste the goodness and natural sweetness of the caramelized pumpkin bits.Cubes of pumpkin are tempered with red chillies,cumin,mustard,curry leaves and wait.... the special ingredient that takes this dish to another level is jaggery.Have I ever told you just how much I love jaggery? I'm addicted to the stuff.I scrape off little portions from the block and nibble on them all day long.

What is jaggery? it's best that you don't know or you'll turn into an jaggery crazed monster like me.But I'll let you in on this little secret - it's way better than sugar.
From wikipeida and other sources - "This type of sugar is considered unrefined and is produced by boiling raw sugar cane or palm juice in iron pans. Because it does not go through additional processing, it retains some of the natural vitamins and minerals of the ingredients used.Many people consider jaggery healthier than more refined sugar since it is less stripped of natural nutrients.Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as `unrefined sugar from palm sap', the word jaggery is used for the products of both sugarcane and the palm tree. Jaggery is considered beneficial to health by the traditional medical system of Ayurveda."

Before this post turns into a story about my love for jaggery, let's get on to the recipe. This dish pairs well as a side for steamed rice and roti.Eat up and feel good!With all of that vitamin A I can see better where did I put that pumpkin pie don't worry I'll replace all the sugar with the jaggery.Evil me.



250 gms or 1/2 lb of red pumpkin cubed
jaggery - a lime sized ball
2-3 red chillies broken and deseeded
2 tsp finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
6-8 curry leaves
a pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 tsp oil
salt to taste


1)Remove the rind of the pumpkin and discard.Remove the seeds as well.Cube the pumpkin and rinse in water.
2)Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard,cumin seeds and red chillies.When they begin to splutter add the curry leaves, onion and hing.Saute until an aroma is given off and the onions are soft.
3)Add the pumpkin cubes and stir well so the tempering coats the veggie uniformly.Add the turmeric and salt to taste.Stir fry for about 1 min.
4)Add 1/4 cup of water.Cover and cook for 3 mins.(Or less if the pumpkin is tender).When the pumpkin is fork tender add the jaggery and bring to a boil.
The jaggery should melt and form a thick golden syrup.Be careful not to overcook the pumkin or it gets mushy and pasty. You want the cubes to still hold the shape inspite of being soft cooked.
5)Serve hot with rice or roti.


  1. the recipe is tempting to try for various reasons......but i've never added sugar in spicy food. and this 'lime-sized ball of jaggery' sounds quite something. but since i'm all for the vitamins here.....i'll try it out.nothing ventured nothing gained!

  2. ashwini - you can reduce or increase the jaggery to suit your palate. No hard rules on this one!