15 November, 2016
Kumror Chhakka ; Pumpkin sixer
I know I have some explanation to do here. You see the word Chhakka in Bengali means a sixer.
A sixer? What is that supposed mean?
Well for those of you who are familiar with the game of cricket, sixer is a score. When the ball is hit to cross the boundary, the batsman scores six runs in one go.
If you have played ‘Snake and ladder’, the dice has a score of six, which is also referred to as Chhakka.
In other words it is much desirable.
I have no clue how an ordinary Pumpkin got to score this high though. Let me try to use my artistic license to visualize a story here.
Say it is early nineteenth century rural Bengal. Women stayed in the house to rear the family. Cleaning, cooking, washing clothes kept her busy the whole day. The menfolk looked after the outside world. Dressed in dhoti and a loose top, tending to their handlebar moustache, they would sometimes peek, through their thick, round tortoise shelled glasses towards the general direction of the kitchen. The master reassuring himself that all is well in his universe.
Maybe, just maybe in one of those days, the master had invited one of his bosses for lunch. Considering the period it wouldn’t be out of place to think it was a British officer. That was the time the East India company was making inroads to Bengal. It was expected that would be a five course meal, how else could he impress his senior?
‘Ihar naam ki?’ What is the name of this dish, the officer might have enquired. Unsure himself the master might have called out ‘Ginni, eta ki baniyecho?’, Homemaker, what have you cooked?
Now the story inside the kitchen was different. Maybe the supplies were low for some reason. The ladies were unable to whip up the multiple courses. Potatoes and dried grams are a staple. The pumpkin could be just maturing in the kitchen garden. As a last minute thing the elders in the kitchen whipped this mish mash up and gave it a fancy name.
Whatever the story, this is a humble, earthy dish goes well with plain white rice or pooris.
If any of you have a different story I would be very interested to learn about it.
Recipe: Serves 2 as main.
Pumpkin cut in small cubes 2 Cups
Potatoes cut similarly 1/2 cup
Whole red chillies 2 or 3 ( optional )
Green chillies 2
Bengal grams 1/4 cup
Roasted, ground cumin seeds 1/2 tsp and 1/2 tsp
Roasted ground coriander seeds 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida ( hing ) 1/4 tsp
Grated ginger 1/2 tsp
Jaggery ( Gur ) 1/2 tsp
Ghee 1 Tbsp
Canola oil 1 Tbsp
Salt To taste
Soak the grams overnight with water. Next morning boil them till soft.
In a non stick pan on high heat take a Tbsp of Canola oil. Add the cumin seeds, green chillies, or red if you are using, and Fenugreek seeds. As soon as they start to change colour add the hing. Wait for 20 seconds till you get a nutty aroma, throw in the potatoes, turmeric powder, ginger paste and salt. Cover and cook on a medium flame now, till the potatoes are tender. If it gets very dry sprinkle a table spoon of water, to prevent the spices from getting burnt.
Next add the pumpkin pieces and stir such they are well coated with the spices. Throw in the boiled gram and jaggery. As soon as the pumpkin is soft switch the gas off. Add a Tbsp of ghee and sprinkle 1/2 tsp of the roasted ground cumin powder. Keep it covered until serving.
Enjoy with rice or Pooris.
I used Butternut Squash.
The chillies, red and green are only for flavour. Take them out before serving.
The pumpkin pieces should still be holding shape not a mush.
Every family has their own version of chhakka, with minor differences.
Bengal grams are available as “Kala chana” in Indian grocery stores.
Ginni is the short form of the word Grihini. It was customary to address the wife this way as opposed to the first name.