Friday, October 29, 2010

The Great Pumpkin Mash-Up

Although people associate the pumpkin with Halloween jack o’lanterns, Cinderella, absurd growing contests, and my personal favorite, pumpkin chucking (it is exactly as it sounds), pumpkins get a short shrift.  Sure, there are a bunch of pumpkin recipes out there, but they mainly fall in two categories – soup or dessert.  Pity for such a great vegetable. As Linus says, “I’m doomed. One little slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?”
Pumpkins are cucurbitae or squashes, just like courgettes, butternuts, Hubbard, acorn, etc.  The ones usually used for decoration are all derived from the species Cucurbita maxima, and are not the type used predominately for canned pumpkin (these are derived mainly from the C. moschata).  You could eat a generic Halloween pumpkin, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s stringy, watery and tastes just like a something your mom gave you when you were sick. The best eating pumpkins come from the C. pepo species and weigh about 2-5 pounds. While the most common of these small eating types is the Small Sugar or New England/Connecticut Pie pumpkin (a hybrid variety), there is a large stock of heirloom varieties, such as Long Island Cheese Pie, Winter Luxury (has a netted skin) and Long Pie.  They are fairly easy to grow (a future blog post will talk about growing your own pumpkins and eating pumpkin shoots), and Trivial Pursuit fact of the day, they grow in any climate, except for the Antarctic.
Desperate to make a pumpkin dish that was NOT soup or dessert, I decided to go fusion – Caribbean/Indian.  Not as odd as it sounds.  Both Indian and Caribbean cuisines are complexly spiced and vegetable based.  If you think about it, the similarities are uncanny.  What about a pumpkin samosa? I pre-roasted some sugar pie pumpkins to caramelize the natural sugars and to rid the pumpkin of any excess liquid, sautéed with some onion, chilies and spices, and stuffed them into samosa pastry.  Yummo.   All pumpkin, no clichés.  I think the Great Pumpkin will be passing by my house this year.
Pumpkin Samosas
Although one can buy both pre-made samosa dough (at South Asian grocery stores) and canned pumpkin, it really does taste better if you make your own pumpkin puree and samosa pastry.  And even though this is a vegan recipe, you can easily put some crumbled panner or queso fresco if you want some more protein.

Yield: 20 samosas
Samosa Filling
1 2-5 pd. eating pumpkin, such as Sugar Pie, or other hard winter squash (Butternut, Sugar Dumpling, Acorn) (or 2 cans of canned pumpkin)
2 tbs. vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 11/2 in. chunk of ginger, minced
1 green chili, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro
salt to taste
Samosa Dough (or store-bought)
2 c. of flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbs. vegetable oil
6 tbs. water
Oil for frying samosas (around 8 cups)
1.     Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper or foil.
2.     Split pumpkin/squash in half and scoop out seeds (you can roast the seeds).
3.     Place pumpkin cut-side down and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, until soft when pierced with a knife.  Time will depend upon variety and weight of pumpkin.
4.     Take out pumpkin and when cool enough to handle, scoop out pumpkin flesh and reserve.
5.     Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Sauté onion until soft but not browned.  Add garlic, ginger and chilies and sauté until fragrant. Add spices and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add reserved pumpkin flesh and cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.  Take off heat and stir in cilantro.  Set aside.
6.     For the samosa dough, mix salt and flour in a large bowl.
7.     Add oil and rub into the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (similar to the process to making a pie crust).  Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
8.     Coat the dough with oil and set aside for 30 minutes or longer in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
9.     To make the samosas, knead the dough once more and divide it into 10 balls. 
10.  Roll each ball into a flat circle, about 5 in. in diameter.
11.  Roll the half into a cone, by sticking the seam of the dough with a little water.  Fill cone with about 2 1.2 tbs. of the pumpkin mixture.
12.  Seal the cone together with some water. Repeat the process until all the dough has been used.
13.  Add enough vegetable oil until it reaches 4 inches in a wok, deep cast iron skillet or pot.  Heat the oil to 350°F.  (If you don’t have a thermometer, take a popcorn kernel and wait until it pops.  When it pops, the oil will be the correct temperature – around 350°F - 365°F.)  Fry 4-5 samosas at a time, being careful not to splatter or crowd the pan.  Fry until golden brown and crisp, about 4-5 minutes.
14.  Drain on paper towels and serve hot with coriander, tamarind or onion chutney.

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