Spiced Sautéed Pumpkin with Shrimp

 In main, side, vegetarian

Bangladeshi mishti kumra

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Fall. So ethereal, you feel lucky to catch just that right moment in time – when the world has turned into those perfect shades of deep oranges and yellows and it seems like you’ve stepped into a painting. Leaves are falling, there’s a quiet hush about the evenings now, the days are getting crisp and cool.

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And now wherever you go, there are pumpkins… I have to admit that much as I make fun of all the pumpkin-spiced stuff in stores at this time of the year, I do have a little weakness for pumpkin-spiced candles. I light my candles, open a bottle of red wine, and cocooned in the warm and cosy apartment, think of something to cook up.

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One of my favorite dishes is a lightly spiced sautéed pumpkin with shrimp (chingri mishti kumra) that we used to have when growing up in Bangladesh. We would have it for lunch usually, though the weather would be very different from the crisp cool days of fall here. Nonetheless, I like making it at this time of the year. Cooking this dish brings back memories of sitting around the lunch table after school with my siblings, mom and grandmother, talking about endless things that I can’t even remember now. Lunch then would be lavish in comparison with my adulthood. There would be at least 5 freshly cooked dishes (not including rice) that our amazing wonderful cook would prepare. The dishes would vary every day too — there would be so many seasonal vegetables and varieties of fish to choose from.  We would usually put in our requests for next day’s lunch menu before we had even finished lunch. Eating was definitely high on our priority list..

This dish easy to make and healthy, and utterly delicious. If it’s a weekend and I’m in the mood to cook, I’ll make a bunch of items and serve the spiced sautéed pumpkin as a side. Otherwise, it’s a good main dish, especially with shrimp. I’ve made it for dinner gatherings too, and it’s always a hit – no matter where my friends are from around the world.

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In our house they used to add shrimp to the dish and I learned to cook it that way from my mom. But you can easily make this without shrimp, as a completely vegetarian dish. It’s no less tasty. Also, you can substitute butternut squash for pumpkin.

If you don’t have nigella seeds, don’t worry. I personally love the taste it adds to the pumpkin, but it’s not necessary. The “mishti kumra” will still be tasty without it.

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Spiced Sautéed Pumpkin with Shrimp | Bangladeshi mishti kumra

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
  • 12-14 shrimp (optional)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 5-7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspooon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • about 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/4 cup water

METHOD

  1. Peel and cut the pumpkin or butternut squash into cubes.
  2. If using shrimp, peel and wash, set aside in a bowl.
  3. Heat pan on medium heat and add oil.
  4. When oil is hot (about a minute and half), add onions. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir and cook till onions are soft and become translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add bay leaves, sautee for another minute.
  6. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili powder, salt. Stir for about 5-7 minutes. Important: when spices start getting dry, add a tablespoon of water while stirring, incorporate, add another tablespoon of water and stir. Repeat this process (of adding a spoon of water while stirring, without letting the spice mix become dry). This method helps get rid of the strong raw spices smell, the flavors slowly meld to create a lovely mellow aroma and taste.
  7. If using shrimp, add the marinated shrimp, stir and cook for a minute.
  8. Add pumpkin and sugar, stir thoroughly to make sure the cubes are coated with the spices, and cook for about 3 minutes.
  9. If you’re using nigella seeds, add them now and stir.
  10. Add water and stir thoroughly.
  11. Cover and cook over medium-low heat till pumpkin becomes soft, but not so soft that it disintegrates (about 7-10 minutes). Open the lid and stir occasionally during this time to check the texture and make sure the pumpkin is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  12. Remove from heat, serve with rice or tortilla or chapati. This makes a great side dish, but can be a main dish too.
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