Kala kaddoo/Pumpkin In Burnt Walnut Paste

Kala Kaddoo…image inspired by the one in BBC Good Food magazine

Of late, I have been reading up on Himachali cuisine. Walking around the mall in Shimla back in 2013,  I had bought a book on the same. Called Classic Recipes from Himachal Pradesh and written by Bhawanee Singh, it has many traditional recipes. The state  is known for its natural beauty. ‘Hima’ means snow in Sanskrit and the state’s name translates to ‘in the lap of the Himalayas’. The rest of the shopping consisted of excellent local fruit wine of which I liked the pear wine the best. I did make Meetha Bhaat from the book but the other day I was tidying up my study and came across an old magazine which featured cuisine from the Kangra Valley in Himachal. Setting whole walnuts  aflame and grinding them with mustard oil to a paste is unique to this region. And what better dish to try this out than the one featured below….

From the pumpkins pictured above, I chose the palest one. Although the recipe called for the regular reddish one, I used what I had in stock.
The recipe has been adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine/India, December 2013. The recipe is by Divya Sud Qureshi , the author of Flavours of the Kangra Valley.
1 kg pumpkin
1 bunch spinach  around 150 grams, washed
3/4 cup mustard oil
2 cups curd, beaten
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
5 tsp ghee
A small bunch of coriander leaves for the garnish
For the walnut paste:
2 whole walnuts
6 tbsp mustard oil
The rest of the spices:
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of asafoetida

To make the walnut paste, dry roast the walnuts. Then place them directly on the fire using tongs. When the walnuts are on fire, remove them and place on a metal plate. The shell will disintegrate and the kernels will be a little charred and will have a smoky flavour. When they stop smouldering, lift them and place in a bowl and pour mustard oil over them. The oil will be the lubricant while grinding.
Pound the walnuts using a mortar and pestle till you get a smooth paste.
Cut and peel the pumpkin. Cut into 11/2 inch cubes. Keep aside.
Grind the spinach leaves and strain the juice.
Heat the oil in a kadhai. When it comes to smoking point, take it off the flame and add the cumin seeds and the remaining spices. Put the pan back on the fire and add the pumpkin pieces and the walnut masala. Season with salt. Fry for about 10-12 minutes.
At this point, add the strained spinach juice and cook till it blends well into the dish.
Remove the pan from the flame and add the curd. Put the pan back on high flame and stir the mixture continuously till it comes to a boil. Cover and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Now add the red chilli powder, garam masala and ghee.
Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.
This goes best with dal and steamed rice.

Lunch…rice, kala kaddoo, arhar dal, banana fritters & cucumber slices

The taste of this dish is unique. The smokiness from the burnt walnut comes through. Paired with the aromatic spices, it is a delicious and fragrant dish. Getting the ingredients ready takes some time but the cooking doesn’t take much time.
For grinding the walnuts, I used my trusted grinding stone. It’s very handy particularly for smaller quantities of ingredients to be ground and is a feature of most Indian kitchens.
I reduced the quantity of almost all the ingredients as I used a smaller pumpkin. And I used chopped serrated coriander for the garnish. My husband and son are not fond of curries with curd. But as for me there is hardly anything that I do not like.:)
I couldn’t find walnuts with shells intact in the markets near our house. My sister who happened to be in Lucknow recently for her daughter’s counselling/admission got the best walnuts for me from there. I think a walnut chutney will be next…

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