I loved petha…the spuriously sweet spongy blocks that we loved as kids….all that I have eaten is from hyderabad, tho I hear the most famous petha is what you get in agra….imagine my horror when I discovered, that this was white pumpkin dipped in sugar syrup!! I refused to eat it for a few years after that…. Through my cognizant years many such horrors of discovery happened!!
Anyways, white pumpkin is one of the vegetables that we didn’t see much of…..we didn’t eat much of it…… occasionally the yellow one made an appearance…..but I identified white pumpkin by the fact that it was used to cast out the evil eye at festivals…..broken to smithereens, doused with turmeric and all …….this changed when my parents were diagnosed as diabetic….. several diabetic friendly changes were made to our food habits…..and I remember, the spread on the table falling into two categories…”theirs” and “ours”…. As all pig headed teens, my brother and I felt my folks were eating terribly tasteless ‘punishment’ food…..but I don’t know where, we began making inroads into this as well…..now we make it pretty often, and savour it too….what makes me smile, is that it cooks very quickly…..being delicately flavoured, the key is not to douse it in too much masala…..
White pumpkin Is an integral part of Avial, it can be added to kadhis, made into gravy curries, I’ve had a lot of white pumpkin in Chinese recipes, but i’m not quite sure if this is authentic or an invention of indo-chinese………my favourite however, is a simple stir fry….
White Pumpkin / Ash Gourd Stir Fry (serves 2)
2 cups white pumpkin/ Ash gourd (peeled and cubed)
2 T finely chopped onion
1 green chilly,
2 cloves of garlic, sliced fine
4-5 curry leaves
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric
½ t each of cumin and kalongi seeds
1 T oil
Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin and kalonji and allow them to splutter for a few seconds. Add the onions, green chilly, curry leaves and garlic and toss around till onion is translucent. Add the turmeric and stir, add the pumpkin pieces and salt and cover and cook on slow heat till done (about 5 mins). The pumpkin sweats quite a bit and will leave a lot of liquid. When almost done, take the lid off and dry the vegetable as much as you would like. Garnish (totally optional) with finely chopped coriander. Serve hot with rotis or rice.