Butternut squash is a staple fall/winter vegetable very similar to pumpkin and tastes lovely with warm spices like sage and cinnamon. While we have pumpkin in India, butternut squash is not found in Indian cooking. Being so similar to pumpkin, I thought it would taste great cooked with Indian spices. Often for a weeknight meal, I don’t feel like making multiple dishes and so making a vegetable pulao is a good way to get your vegetables and rice in one dish. Pulao or pilaf is a dish found in various cuisines of the world including South Asian, Persian and Greek and usually refers to rice prepared with different spices, vegetables or meat. I’ve added chickpeas into the dish to add the daily dose of protein, making this a complete one pot meal. For this pulao, I first roast the butternut squash and chickpeas together with some spices before adding it to the pulao. Roasting the squash brings out the sweetness of the vegetable without overcooking it. Roasting the chickpeas gives them a nuttier and chewy texture which contrasts well with the squash and rice.
Like most pumpkins and squashes, butternut squash can be difficult to process for cooking. It is a tough vegetable to peel and chop and often requires a lot of effort to get it cut into little pieces. So to save on time and energy, I sometimes buy the pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash from the refrigerated produce section at the grocery store. These usually just need a rough chop to get them to the right sized pieces.
This recipe is an easy meal for a weeknight and leftovers also make for a tasty lunch the next day! It’s almost the end of winter, so now is a good time to enjoy some butternut squash before spring and summer vegetables arrive!
1 butternut squash peeled, deseeded and chopped into small 1/2 inch dice OR
pre-peeled and chopped butternut squash from the grocery store ~2 cups
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 red onion diced
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for 30 mins.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Toss the butternut squash and chickpeas with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of chili powder and salt in a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to sizzle, add bay leaf, cinnamon stick and the diced onions and saute for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are tranluscent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for another minute. Add the remaning garam masala and turmeric and stir to distribute the spices. Stir in the green peas. Drain the rice and add to the onions. Stir to combine and toast the rice for a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups of water and cover the pan and allow the rice to cook, around 10-15 minutes. Be careful to not overcook the rice. When the rice is done,stir in the squash and chickpeas and gently mix to combine. Take the pan off the heat and garnish the pulao with cilantro. Serve with yogurt or a cucumber raita.