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Friday, June 22, 2012

Gavar Ani Bhoplya Chi Bhaaji - Cluster Beans with Banana Squash/Pumpkin

I am amazed at the large variety of squashes and pumpkins that exist. I was only aware of one kind of a pumpkin while growing up. When anyone said that they had made a pumpkin curry, it really meant that they had cooked "laal bhopla" (in Marathi) or "kaddu" (in Hindi). And squash really boiled down to "bottle gourd".  Moreover, I was not fond of pumkins so I stayed as far away as possible. It was the similar case with cluster beans which are known as "gavar" (in Marathi) or "guvar" (in Hindi). Of course times have changed, my palette has expanded and I find that any vegetable can be made to taste good. I enjoy the challege and experimenting with new varieties.

A couple of weeks ago I found a slice of "banana squash" in the local market, which upon closer inspection turned out to be the familiar "laal bhopla". I got nostaligic, remembering how I used to fuss when I had to eat it and decided to give it a second chance. I was debating how to use it when I remembered a preparation that I had eaten at an aunt's house when I was a kid. It had my two least liked vegetables "pumpkin" and "cluster beans", but the taste had been amazing and I had relished it. Luckily I had a packet of frozen cluster beans in my freezer, so I decided to recreate that recipe. It came out very close to the taste I remember and I enjoyed it. I also tried out another variation of cooking just the squash by itself, but that is another post.

1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
a ping of asafoetida/hing
1/4 tsp turmeric
2-4 dry red chillies (to taste)
salt to taste
2 cups diced banana squash/laal bhopla/kaddu
1.5 cups cluster beans, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces (if using frozen, they are already precut)
1 tsp goda masala (optional)
1 tbsp groundnut/peanut powder
1/2 tsp sugar

Heat oil and add mustard and cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add the methi seeds and hing and red chillies. Next add the turmeric and immediately add the cluster beans. Do not let the turmeric cook in the oil for too long as it burns almost very fast. Stir and then add the diced banana squash pieces. Stir well, lower the heat and cover the pan. Let the vegetables cook till soft, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are cooked through, add the goda masala, salt, peanut powder and mix well. Add sugar and stir. Serve hot with chapati or roti.

If needed, you add a couple of spoons of water if the vegetables are browning too fast without getting cooked through. This is more likely to happen if you are using a steel pan versus a non-stick one. If you have a lot of banana squash, you can freeze the diced pieces in a freezer safe bag/box. If you don't have goda masala, use dhania-jeera (corriander-cumin) powder instead.


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