Indian Rice with Roasted Pumpkin

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Indian Rice with Roasted Pumpkin
This year I've been taking full advantage of the local pumpkin season to make nourishing and hearty bean and vegetable dishes. The sweet flavor of fresh cooked pumpkin is a treat on its own, and it adds wonderful depth and substance to soups, stews and curries — and, of course, there's no finer snack than fresh roasted pumpkin seeds as an additional bonus. In this recipe, tender pieces of fresh roasted pumpkin fill out a simple rice dish with fragrant Indian seasonings including panch phoran — Bengali five-spice — for an easy, attractive and delicious side.

One of my favorite discoveries over the past few years is that pumpkin and many other winter squashes don't need to be peeled before roasting — in fact, they're tender, edible and colorful when cooked — which means both that your dishes will be much easier to prepare and that you will be keeping much more of the vegetable's nutrition. I don't mean the big carving pumpkins, of course, the flesh of which are bland in comparison to the small pie pumpkins that are found in every market at this time of year. If you can't find pie pumpkins, butternut or acorn squashes can be used instead.

Note: Panch phoran is a bittersweet and fragrant blend of seeds commonly used in east India and Bangladesh where it is fried in hot oil until it "pops" and is used to season dals and dishes like this one. You can easily find it at any Indian grocer, but it is so easy to make at home as it consists of only fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds in equal amounts, without requiring any roasting or grinding, and it can be stored for months in an airtight container.

Indian Rice with Roasted PumpkinIndian Rice with Roasted Pumpkin
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on November 2, 2020

Indian white basmati rice cooked with fragrant spices and tender pieces of roasted pumpkin

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 55 to 60 minutes

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  • 1 small pie pumpkin (about 2 lbs or 900 g)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup white basmati rice, thoroughly rinsed and soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon panch phoran
  • small handful of dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 to 3 red or green chilies, seeeded and minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon brown or coconut sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garam masala, to taste
  • small handful of fresh cilantro, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Line a large baking sheet with foil and preheat an oven to 425°F.

  • Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (keeping them aside for roasting for another time) and pulp (discard), and then slice into 1 1/2 inch thick semi-circles. No need to peel the pumpkin. Cut the semi-circles into large bite-size pieces and transfer to the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat the pieces of pumpkin. Sprinkle with cayenne, salt and black pepper, and roast for 40 minutes or until the pumpkin is fork tender and begins to brown. Set aside.

  • While the pumpkin is roasting, drain the rice and rinse again. Leave to air-dry in the strainer for 10 minutes, tossing the grains occasinally. In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and 2 cups of water to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

  • In a wok or deep non-stick skillet, heat the ghee or olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the panch phoran and sauté for 30 seconds, or until the seeds darken a few shades. Stir in the curry leaves and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and sauté for another 5 minutes. Now stir in the chilies and ginger, and cook for another minute. Stir in the mustard powder, paprika and sugar, if using, and cook for another minute, until the onion is coated.

  • Now add the pummpkin and peas, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Stir in the rice and garam masala, and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the cilantro and salt. Taste for seasoning, and serve hot.

Makes 8 servings
Indian Rice with Roasted Pumpkin
Other pumpkin recipes to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Black-Eyed Pea Pumpkin Curry
Pumpkin Hummus
Savory Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins
Pumpkin Scones
Pumpkin Cheesecake
and see also 22 Nourishing Vegetarian and Vegan Pumpkin Recipes

Audio accompaniment: Max Richter - War Anthem

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