A warming veggie side dish
While I have recommended butternut squash, this recipe works just as well with many autumnal vegetables and can be substituted with any other kind of squash, turnips, even parsnips, or if you can find it, the Indian pumpkin ‘kaddu’. The quantity of vegetables needed depends on what else is being serving alongside: a good estimate is 150g (peeled weight) per person for a side dish as part of a multi-course meal and 200g per person for a main or as the sole side dish.
1kg peeled butternut squash (or autumn vegetable of your choice)
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
3 dried red chillies
1 tbsp cashew nuts, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
A good pinch of sugar
Cut the peeled butternut squash (or your chosen vegetable) into 2.5cm cubes. Rub the turmeric and 1½ tsp salt into the diced squash and set aside for at least 30 mins.
In a heavy-based frying pan (skillet), dry roast the cumin seeds over a low heat until the seeds darken and release a nutty fragrance. Grind the roast cumin seeds in a spice grinder or crush them with a pestle and mortar.
When ready to cook, heat the oil in a deep saucepan that has a lid over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, take the pan off the heat, wait for 1 min and then add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, dried red chillies, cashew nuts, and garlic.
Return the pan to a medium heat and add the squash. The water content in the squash should add sufficient moisture but if the mixture sticks to the pan, add a splash of water. Increase the heat to high and cook the squash, stirring to prevent sticking, for at least 5 mins to seal in the hot oil and prevent it from disintegrating. When the squash is coloured on all sides, cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook until the squash is tender. Take a piece of squash from the pan to check that it is cooked through.
Add the sugar and the roasted and ground cumin and continue to cook, covered, over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the squash is infused with the spices. If there is any water left in the pan, remove the lid, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring gently, until evaporated.
Before serving, taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Recipe: Asma Khan