The only time I have celebrated Thanksgiving where I live in London, it was with a couple of incredibly homesick American friends. Hoping to comfort them, I cooked what I felt was a spirit-lifting roasted tandoori turkey, only to receive steely glances, awkward silences and, “No thanks.”
I learned the painful way that the turkey is not the place for trying new things, as tradition rules at Thanksgiving. Luckily, it seems, the side dishes are given a bit more flexibility.
In India, as in the U.S., the pumpkin—or “kaddu”—is a real favourite at the dinner table, with every region having its own take on how best to cook it. In Uttar Pradesh in the North, pumpkin often is transformed into a spiced sweet curry, or “subzi,” that is eaten alongside a sour pickle that counterbalances it wonderfully. In Kerala in the southwest of India, pumpkin is given a more delicate treatment and paired with sweet onions, black-eyed beans and coconut milk.
For Thanksgiving, it’s important to get the balance right, to have a side that will fit in with the mosaic of other offerings at the table and be quick—or at least easy—to make.
Baking your pumpkin with some garam masala, a classic Indian seasoning blend, adds a gentle warmth that is so welcome this time of year. Serving it with this pistachio-cilantro chutney (which can be made ahead of time) will add some brightness in colour, freshness and flavour.
ROAST SPICED PUMPKIN WITH PISTACHIO CHUTNEY
Garam masala is a widely available Indian seasoning blend. Look for it in the grocer’s spice aisle. Acorn squash also works well in this recipe.
Start to finish: 40 minutes (15 minutes active)
For the chutney:
1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, chopped (plus extra to garnish)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 to 2 green finger or other fresh chilies, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
For the pumpkin:
3-pound sugar pumpkin (or multiple smaller pumpkins)
5 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil or kitchen parchment.
To make the chutney, in a blender or food processor, combine the pistachios, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Add one of the chilies to start and about 6 tablespoons of water, or just enough to blend. Process or blend until the mixture is finely chopped. Taste and add the other chili if desired, then transfer to a bowl. Drizzle the oil over the chutney, lightly mix, then set aside.
Cut the pumpkin in half top to bottom, then scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Peel the pumpkin halves, then cut each half into 1-inch-thick slices. Mound the pumpkin on the prepared baking sheet, then drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the garam masala, salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then arrange in a single layer.
Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender and starting to brown. Arrange the squash on a serving plate and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Serve with the chutney for spooning over.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories; 190 calories from fat (76 per cent of total calories); 21 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 560 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 4 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of “Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen.” She lives in London, blogs at www.meerasodha.com and tweets at @meerasodha