A shared convivial meal conquers any tightness
October, at this time, in the heat of autumn fervor, the recipes with pumpkins are as prolific as their partners of the season, the mushrooms. Pumpkins becomes the unbeatable star, from sweet realfooding like xocolate cream to breathtaking casseroles.
In my case, it was while diving through the pages of Claudia Roden’s Jewish Food book that I came across the curried Pumpkin Kofta.
As some of you will guess, this recipe comes from India, and the truth is that it tells a deep story, testimony of an unknown and not always accepted Judaism.
This recipe collected by Roden came originally from the Indian Cookbook of Bene Israel by S. Joel. The Bene Israel, or sons of Israel, are the oldest recognized Indian Jewish group, although in addition to them we also find at least two other Jewish communities: the Cochinis and the Baghdad.
In the case of Bene Israel, from whom we take this kofta today, we know that they are mainly located on the western coast of Konkan, which runs approximately from Mumbai to Goa in the state of Maharastra. The origin of their presence in India has been a reason for dispute among the Jewish communities for many years. Considered a legend, the Bene Israel, claimed to be descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel and although it is not possible to affirm this theory, several genetic studies such as the one carried out in 2016, shed light on the dilemma. The results confirmed that the Bene Israel community had a genetic profile unique in India in which the presence of genes of Jewish origin was substantial. Nowadays, they have the same rights as any other Jew.
As for its cuisine, it is part of the Maharashtrian gastronomy of western India, although with particular touches that differentiate it from the muslim and hindu communities. The Bene Israel’s repertoire includes dishes adopted from Mumbai where they settled for long periods. Among their uniqueness there is the greater use of onions than Hindu cuisine, as well as tomato and coconut. In addition, they use lemon where muslims would generally use yoghurt or sour cream.
In turn, they have some distinctive norms resulting from their evolution as a unique Jewish community isolated from the rest. For example, in the case of matzo or unleavened bread, they use their own grain, clean it and grind it. Also the laws of Kashrut, those that summarise what is permitted and prohibited around food, were extended in a particular way, prohibiting cooking or eating milk and fish on the same plate, when the law only prohibits it between meat and dairy products. Similarly, out of respect for the Hindu community, they stopped introducing veal into their cooking to the extent that some people are still convinced that veal is not kosher.
Be that as it may, the recipe below is a colourful and exotic vegetarian stew through which we can be transported to a place as new to most of us as a Jewish India.
For the pumpkin kofta
For the curry sauce
For the kofta:
The recipe suggests cutting the pumpkin into pieces and steaming it for about 20 minutes. Another option would be to bake it for 35-45 minutes at 180º C. Once cooked, drain as much as possible and mix with the rest of the ingredients, chopped garlic, ginger, coriander (optional) and flour. Prepare in the form of ovals and mark in oil until they are golden on the outside.
For the sauce:
Mix the first 6 ingredients in a paste in the food processor. Fry the onions in the oil until soft and golden, then add the spice paste, stir until golden. Add the tomatoes, about 500 ml water, salt and coconut cream. If you are looking for a more intense flavour, you can use 400 ml of coconut milk for cooking and add a little water. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the balls, curried koftas, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes. Serve hot with rice.
In this preparation the orange pumpkin can be replaced by the white pumpkin, more typical of the region of origin.
Chickpea flour can be replaced by wheat flour.
Sesame or peanut oil can be replaced by olive oil.
Both coriander and dry coconut can sometimes be difficult to find in the markets of certain countries (hi from Barcelona), the same recipe without those ingredients is equally delicious. Nevertheless, I have left the original idea so that whoever has the option can recreate it as similar as possible.
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