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Bengali Squash with Chickpeas

A great side dish to meat or chicken dishes

Side dish: Bengali Squash with Chickpeas

Butternut squash is one of my favorite varieties of pumpkin as it is smoother and creamier than the large orange pumpkins we see at Halloween. It is a wonderful match for the earthiness of the chickpeas, especially when paired with these sweet and earthy spices. These ingredients and flavors have a definitive West Bengali flair.

This is a fantastic vegetarian autumnal main course (add more beans or some cubes of paneer) or a great side dish to meat or chicken dishes. You can vary the beans (cannellini or butterbeans would also be delicious) or make it with sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Good pinch of asafoetida

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon panch phoran

1–2 mild dried red chiles

1 small onion, peeled and sliced

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 scant teaspoons ground cumin

1 rounded teaspoon ground coriander

Salt, to taste

¾ teaspoon sugar, or to taste

2 teaspoons ginger paste

1 ¼-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1 ½-inch chunks

1 cup drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

¾ teaspoon garam masala

¾ teaspoon fennel seeds, ground

Preparation

1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the asafoetida, bay leaf, panch phoran and chiles; cook over low heat for about 1 minute.

2. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and ground coriander, along with the salt, sugar and ginger paste. Give the pan a stir, add a splash of water and cook for another minute.

3. Add the squash, pour in ⅔ cup water. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until the squash is cooked through, around 15–18 minutes.

4. Stir in the chickpeas, garam masala, fennel seed powder and a splash of water. Cook for another minute and serve. The dish should be moist but not gravied.

Serves 4

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