There are days when Dada is outrageously fussy with his food and worse still, for no comprehensible reason. At least to me.
Today is one such day.
It has been pumpkin season, the vine has been abloom with gorgeous flowers and luscious plump pumpkin.
Earlier this morning, Manikkaka had got out the ancient battered ladder from the cobweb-mangled dust-suffocated storeroom next to the cowshed, stood it against the white-washed wall and climbed up the ladder, one careful step at a time, while Dada had held the ladder firmly. Once up on the red-tiled roof of the storeroom, now colonized arrogantly by the prolific pumpkin vine, Manikkaka had, with a flamboyant brandish of his ominous sickle, decapitated a golden pumpkin. The precise one that Grandma, standing in the shade of the corridor and watching the proceedings, had pointed at.
How do you know which of the pumpkins to pluck ? I had enquired, unable to contain my curiosity.
Grandma had just smiled.
Meanwhile Manikkaka flings the orphaned pumpkin down.
Dada attempts a gallant dive to catch it before it hits the ground.
But the naughty vegetable eludes his eager welcoming hands.
And crashes with a thud.
Dada, his legs entangled in the sheafs of hay that lie carelessly all around, falls headlong over it.
I burst out into laughter. And almost immediately notice Grandma’s disapproving frown.
Red with embarrassment, forlorn and furious, without even a word, Dada darts inside the house.
Quite expectedly, THE pumpkin before long becomes the target of Dada’s indignant scorn.
I am bored with pumpkin, he complains, I don’t want any of it today.
I shall stir-fry the pumpkin with nigella seeds and some mean chillies, exactly the way you like it, Grandma, never to lose her patience, offers.
I just had that day before, an annoyed Dada retorts.
OK, I shall ask bouma (as Grandma refers to Maa) to throw in some shrimps as well.
No. Comes a monosyllabic rejoinder. Dripping with irritation.
OK then, let me tempt you with your favourite kumror chhokka. Another attempt by Grandma to pacify Dada’s anger.
I don’t want pumpkin. That’s it. And then, as an afterthought he adds, unless of course, you make me something that I have NEVER had before. Dada tries to provoke Grandma with a challenge.
By no means one to be subdued, Grandma pulls out a delectable Kumror Dhokar Dalna from her repertoire.
Dada falls hook, line and sinker to the allure of the novel dalna.
The battle is won.
Kumror Dhokar Dalna. A sublime symphony of sweet pumpkin and chana dal paste. Fried to a sinful golden. In a delicately flavored tomato-yogurt curry, perfumed with whole spices and spiked with ginger. A hint of cumin. A subtlety of ground coriander.
If you haven’t had Kumror Dhokar Dalna before, let me coax you to give it a try this festive season. You and your loved ones shall be all smiles for sure !!!!
Kumror Dhokar Dalna (Pumpkin and Lentil Cake Curry)
For Kumror Dhoka
- 250 g pumpkin cut into thin strips
- 3/4 cup cholar dal or bengal gram soaked for overnight
- 2-3 green chilies finely chopped
- 1 tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- oil for frying
For the Dalna
- 1 big tomato pureed
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 one inch cinnamon stick
- 2-3 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1.5 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tbsp ghee or clairified butter
- salt to taste
For Kumror Dhoka
- Drain the soaked chana dal from water, grind to a coarse paste along with the green chilies and very little water.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, when smoking hot, throw in the nigella seeds, allow to splutter.
- Add the pumpkin, salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder, fry over a high flame for 5-6 minutes while stirring frequently.
- Lower the flame, stir in the chana dal paste and sprinkle in the roasted cumin powder.
- Adjust seasonings.
- Cook over a low flame, while stirring continuously, till the chana dal paste is incorporated completely into the pumpkin and the mixture comes off the pan easily.
- Allow the mixture to cool just sufficiently enough to handle.
- Grease a dish with a little oil. Spread the above mixture on the dish, about 6-7mm of thickness. Cut into diamond shape as shown in the picture.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Heat oil in a pan, fry the dhokas till a gorgeous golden. Keep aside on a kitchen absorbent towel.
For the Dalna
- Add 1.5 tbsp oil in a pan. When smoking hot, throw in the bay leaves, crushed cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, allow to splutter.
- When the spices start to release their aroma, stir in the tomato puree, sprinkle a little salt and saute till the tomatoes are cooked.
- Now add the whipped yogurt, ginger paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder, cook for 5-7 odd minutes till oil starts to release from the masala.
- Add 3/4 cups of warm water, sprinkle in the sugar, give it a hearty stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings, gently place the fried dhokas in the curry, cook for a further 5 minutes over a very low flame.
- Finish with a generous dollop of ghee and a sprinkle of garam masala powder. Switch off the flame, allow to stand for 5-7 minutes.
- Serve hot with rice.