Pumpkin one of the most versatile and interesting ingredient to work with has been a choice of not too many though but it is definitely a power loaded nutritionally dense vegetable to be paired up in a variety of dishes be it Indian or continental from a Desi Kaddu ka Halwa to an achari basil pumpkin ravioli pasta, from a Winter Warming Soup to an attraction for Halloween it has somewhere been associated with us since many years now.

Bhopla, Kaddu, Pumpkin and Squash some of the names associated with this ingredient have a lot to offer us and we must make a willful use of it in our daily cooking. I often came across guests who sai that pumpkin was not their choice on the menu and wanted something more enticing and exciting on their plates, but it was a great sight to see them happy and relishing one of those surprise tasting bites which had pumpkin in them and they didn’t even realise it.

Also popularly known as the national vegetable of our country, pumpkin varieties are numerous and we have a few at our neighbourhood vegetable vendor as well. Most people feel it is a little cumbersome to work with it from peeling to removing the seeds and then how to make it taste just like one of those popular dishes we are used to is a task at times.

While on a broader note, the seeds, flesh, skin and flowers of the pumpkin plant are all useful and reduce a lot of food wastage while cooking.

Some Popular Health Benefits of Pumpkin

This golden wonder veggie is a great weight loss ingredient must have in our diet to maintain the fit status.

  • It helps stabilise blood sugar levels in our body and also lowers cholesterol.
  • Studies say pumpkin relieves insomnia as well.
  • It contains a good amount of zinc, also offers relief from anxiety issues in people.
  • Eating pumpkin once in a while also helps keep our kidneys functioning at their best.
  • It is also good for blood circulation, helps cure infertility issues too.
  • High in omega -3 which does surely solve a lot many problems.
  • Pumpkins are also high in vitamin – A, C and B12.
  • Low on carbs and calories, high in fiber content which is good.
  • Rich in iron and folate, good source of vitamin- E.
  • An impressive nutrient profile which benefits heart health due to being rich in potassium, it is also good for our bladder.
  • Good amounts of beta-carotene are found in pumpkins which our body can easily convert into vitamin- A.
  • Almost 94 % water content in pumpkin, high in minerals and anti-oxidants keep us pepped up.

Some Simple and Easy Ideas To Use Pumpkin In Our Kitchens

inside graphic chef kaviraj pumpkin uses

To me Pumpkin is one of the easiest to incorporate in day to day cooking and I personally just love having it simple peeled, cut into medium sized cubes, a light toss with salt, crushed black pepper, roasted crushed jeera baked in the oven or cooked in a pan over low heat for 8 to 10 mins and adding a little lime juice, a nice garnish of chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves works well for a light meal with some brown bread toast. However, we also use it to make pies, savoury pastry fillings, healthy gravies and vegetables like pumpkin coconut curry, kaddu aur nariyal ki subzi etc and sauces for pasta, purees and mashed pumpkin with various continental dishes,

Try a simple recipe of Dahivala Kaddu fry, give it a tadka of dried slit red chilies, hing, curry leaves, mustard seeds and add a little water with the pumpkin cubes, allow to cook covered for 8 to 10 mins, add a little beaten thick curd, kasuri methi, salt to taste and a little turmeric and cumin powder and cook on a low flame for few mins, add roasted crushed peanuts, toasted sesame seeds for garnish, goes well with phulkas.

Pumpkin and Soya Keema ke Parathey, a good unusual combo as a stuffing for your favourite parathas. Make a dry filling of boiled and mashed pumpkin with cooked soy keema with our basic powdered spices, add a little fresh chopped methi, coriander and aamchur powder, mix well and stuff into the parathas.

Also must try is a stir fry pumpkin with capsicums and peanut butter sauce. Cubes of pumpkin to be tossed in a little olive  oilwith some garlic and spring onions, add salt and red chili powder, little readily available peanut butter, some warm water to adjust the texture, add shredded capsicums to it and cook for 6 to 8 mins.

Sweet potato and pumpkin chaat is one good way of serving something different, boil the cubes of both the veggies, toss them up in our desi chutneys, imli- saunth, green chutney, garlic chili chutney etc along with the basic chaat elements as well, garnish with toasted Makhana to add to the crunch in the chaat.

Pumpkin and kismish ka raita, I often enjoy this goodie bowl with my theplas or khakra once in a while, it is so refreshing and full of contentment. Use steamed grated pumpkin with rock salt, a little honey, chopped green chilies, mint and a dash of ginger powder or saunth in a beaten curd mixture, serve it chilled with your choice of roti, naans, parathas and kulchas

Benefits And Uses Of Pumpkin Seeds

seeds chef uses

  • It’s one of the good options known to use for having them just the way they are, some of us like it lightly toasted or roasted need to be careful while doing it since too much roasting is not too good.
  • I like to add the toasted ones into my smoothies and health shakes as a garnish.
  • Also we can use the seeds in salad dressings to add to the texture.
  • The seeds are rich in so many ways especially for our skin and hair that we should have them in various recipes though in moderation.
  • These seeds are rich in various antioxidants which help boost immunity of our body as well.
  • Try adding pumpkin seeds to your lassi, chaas, raitas, dahi bhallas, milk shakes, I also suggest it to be used in vegan recipes as well in many ways.

Some Benefits of Pumpkin Seed Oil

  • Though the pumpkin seed oil is not really much spoken about as much as coconut oil but it does possess the similar nutrition and is beneficial to us in many ways.
  • Pumpkin seed oil is good for our skin and hair, it promotes a lot of well-being if used moderately once in a while, while the recommended dietary intake is around 1 tsp per day if being used.
  • The super power pumpkin seed oil if being used in the kitchen should ideally be added at the end of the cooking process for example a vegetable or a dal or a pulao, we can add like 1 tsp of it once the dish is ready and off the flame.
  • While it soothes, hydrates and protects our skin from many environmental stressors, it also helps tighten the skin, acts as a good facial moisturizer & is also considered good for anti-aging as well.
  • It is pretty soft and kind on our skin and effective on oily skin as well being rich in vitamin- E.

Here are a couple of my recipes with Pumpkin for our readers to try and enjoy!

Pumpkin Veggie Soup

soup pumpkin

Ingredients

  • Yellow pumpkin- 200gms, peeled and cut into small cubes.
  • Oil/olive oil- 1 tsp
  • Chopped garlic-1tsp
  • Chopped onion-1 tbsp.
  • Carrots-1/2 cup cubes
  • Green peas-1/4 cup cubes
  • Capsicum-1/4 no, cubes.
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper power-1 pinch
  • Roasted crushed cumin powder-1/2 tsp
  • Water/veg stock-3 to 4 cups
  • Tomato puree-1/4 cup
  • Chili flakes and herbs- to taste
  • Fresh coriander leaves- 1 tbsp. for garnish

Method

  • Prepare all the ingredients for the soup.
  • Heat oil in a saucepan, add in the garlic, onions and saute for 10 seconds, add in the vegetables and pumpkin.
  • Add in the salt, mixed herbs and spices, water or stock, puree and allow to boil and simmer for 10-15 mins.
  • Serve hot garnished with fresh coriander or herbs.

Chefs Variations

  • Add some pasta of your choice like macaroni, penne or fusilli etc to the same soup to make it more filling, serve with garlic bread.
  • For non-veg we can add cubes of boiled chicken towards the end in the soup, can use chicken stock instead.
  • Try using white and yellow pumpkin both as well for more taste and also try adding little fresh coconut milk for a varied creamy texture in the soup, can have it puree as well garnish it flax seeds and fresh mint.

Pumpkin Coconut Pudding

pumpkin coconut pudding

Ingredients

  • Yellow Pumpkin- 200gms, peeled and grated.
  • Ghee-1 tbsp.
  • Green elaichi- 2 nos.
  • Jaggery- ¼ cup grated
  • Honey- 1 tbsp.
  • Sugar- to taste
  • Milk/Soy milk- 500 ml
  • Coconut milk-150ml
  • Sooji- 2 tbsp.
  • Assorted nuts- cashews/raisins/almonds- 4 to 5 each for
  • garnish.
  • Glazed cherries- 2 to 3 no. sliced for garnish.

Method

  • Prepare all the ingredients for the sweet dish.
  • Heat ghee in a pan add in the cleaned sooji and slightly roast it on a low flame for 2 to 3 mins, stir continuously.
  • Add in the milk, jaggery and other sweeteners as desired and mix well.
  • Add in the grated pumpkin, and cook on a low flame and mix it well with the sooji.
  • Add in coconut milk, stir well and cook for 6 to 8 mins until it starts leaving the sides of the pan easily.
  • Serve warm, garnished with sliced nuts and cherries.

Chefs Variations:

  • Try the same dessert with a combination of pumpkin with carrots as well, use desiccated coconut in place of coconut milk.
  • I also tried the same dessert with crushed oats in place of sooji and it was amazing as well in texture and taste.
  • Try it in a vegan form as well use your favourite milk extract and use soy flour in place of sooji or oatmeal, try adding little dark chocolate to the pudding and create layers in a glass and set it to chill.

Dr. Kaviraj Khialani- Celebrity Master Chef, is based in Mumbai and is a Food Designer, Creative Cuisine Specialist, Author, Food Writer and Consultant. With his varied experience with Hotels and Airlines he has also mastered over 33 International Cuisines, has been featured on various food shows on Star Plus & Colors Television. He has also been awarded several National Awards and has also been recognised globally for his valuable contribution to the Food and Hospitality Industry since over two decades now.