February 26, 2021
Folks laugh when I tell them one of my favorite vegetables is squash. They often don't realize I mean the Indian Punjabi version. It's at once spicy, tart, and savory with touch of sweet. I first became obsessed with the heady flavors of this dish when cooking in our shared kitchens in Hale Manoa with my dear friend Mukta in Hawaii. While my mom made it growing up, this recipe tasted slightly different. I was a graduate student there living in the International dorms attached to the East West Center. Because we shared cooking space, I often felt that I majored as much in International Cooking as I did in Asian Studies. Those were critical years when I truly developed a flair for developing flavors and seeing how food is actually cooked by home chefs from all over the world including East and Southeast Asia, Polynesia, and the Indian Subcontinent. It was always the perfect pot luck in Hale Manoa, where we would all cook at our separate stovetops and then come together on the attached lanai to pull together the tables and eat collectively. I once heard a 'celebrity' chef say that they believe online research is sufficient to replicate international dishes and taste profiles, rather than traveling or eating the food in on its home table. I found that comment to be so disturbing. I'll never trade those years of learning how to eat and how to master spices from the hands of those who cook with those ingredients daily. Enjoy this dish. I know it will be game changer for you as it was for me.
Spicy Butternut Squash
Pressure Cooker Size: 3 quart or larger
Warm Up: 14 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Cool Down: Manual release plus 2 minutes on Saute
TOTAL: 26 minutes plus manual release time
Makes: 4 cups
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
1 pinch hing (asafoetida) (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 black cardamom pod (optional)
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ cup yellow or red minced onion
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, minced
½ - 4 Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and sliced lengthwise
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons amchur (dried mango powder)
2 teaspoons red chile powder or cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (7 cups)
¼ cup water
½ lemon juiced, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. Place the inner cooking pot in your Instant Pot. Select the SAUTE setting and adjust to MORE. When the indicator flashes HOT, add oil. Once hot, add the hing and cumin. Stir well and cook 40 seconds until the seeds are reddish brown. Because the oil pools to the sides, push the spices into the oil along the border of the inner pot so they can cook fully.
2. Add the turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and fenugreek. Cook 30 seconds. Don’t overcook the fenugreek seeds, as they can get bitter.
3. Add the onion. Stir and cook 1 minute.
4. Add the ginger and fresh chiles. Stir and cook 1 minute. Press CANCEL.
5. Add the garam masala, coriander, amchur, red chile, salt, and brown sugar. Stir well. Add squash and stir again.
6. Add the water. No need to stir.
7. Lock the lid into place and make sure the pressure release valve is set to the sealing position (upwards). Press the PRESSURE COOK button until the panel indicates MORE and adjust the time to pressure cook on HIGH for 10 minutes.
8. Once the cooking is complete, release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Select the SAUTE setting again and once the contents start to simmer, cook another 2 minutes. This step dries up some of the moisture and pulls the dish together.
9. Add the lemon juice and stir the contents until the squash is coated with spices evenly. Use the back of your spoon to break down a few pieces of squash. Remove the cardamom and cinnamon and add the cilantro. Serve with Indian bread like roti or naan.
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