Never made it for the IMBB event. As usual. It wasn' the electricity cut this time, just that we don't buy pumpkins particularly around Halloween. So no left overs. It forms part of our daily bread. Pumpkins grow proliferously in our part of the world, like the cucurbitae family (cucumber and gourds),compared to other vegetables.They do not require artificial and chemical encouragement. As in fertilisers . Nor do they need too many pesticides to survive. In short, pumpkin is a perfect vegetable for our 'hardship' Indian conditions. Sun, heat, undernourished soil, no machines and no money to waste on additives.
When we go to the 'gaon'/village, which is every week, we get to eat the freshest organic vegetables cooked in the simplest way with traditional Maharashtrian masalas/spices. I was not a great fan of Lal Bhopla/pumpkin, till quite late in life.Now it's colour captivates me as well as it's capacity to be turned sweet, spicy or sour.
Take a trip with me, visually, to the village.We have left the spiffy new highway and flyover that leads to the Infotech Park just a few kilometres behind.
No road to speak of, and this is well after the monsoons. Trucks have sculpted the mud track into insurmountable ridges and valleys..a terrain akin to the Grand Canyon. These trucks go into the interior to shave the top soil off good,.but uncultivated and untended fields, whose owners are not resident and in for a nasty surprise when they return to look at their lands.
Oh , think twice, just another day in.....,
Actually the trek across the fields is full of freshness and beauty, if you dont look too far, towards the quarry or the sugarcane factory, the subdivided plots of land acquired by a developer of uncertain background, the fake electricity poles( planted in the ground and connected to nothing) , the BPO buildings creeping up to overtake agricultural lands, you could believe you are in the heart of nature untouched by corrupt human hands.
Pune, the town, looms in the distance, Chinchwad and Pimpri , industrial belts, a smog veiled smudge.We are surrounded by the Deccan plateau,and the Western Ghats, short hills of intrigung shapes .
In this rain shadow area , the trees are always a surprise. Species like ku babool, indigenous to the area, grow like weed without reducing the water table providing valuable shade and firewood.. The rain is collected in traditional 'tanks' to irrigate lands which have no access to river or well water. It lasts to irrigate the rice fields for a substantial part of the year.
Laxmi greets us heartily.Today she is cooking Lal Bhopla Bhaji for the family. A quick and colourful lunch with jowar ki roti, which forms the basis of every farmers meal here. Jowar is much heathier and tastier to eat than wheat chapathis and most rural people realise it fills the stomach in a way that wheat never can.
Ok so here is the recipe for Lal Bhopla: It takes about 15 minutes to make .
3/4 kg pumpkin skinned and cut into cubes.
3 tsps vegetable oil.
1 tsp rai / mustard seed.
1 tsp methi / fenugreek seeds.
3/4 tsp haldi/ turmeric
2 tsp goda masala
Salt to taste
1 tbsp of fresh coriander chopped
Heat the oil in a pan.
When hot add the fenugreek and mustard seeds.
As they pop, add the turmeric and goda masala .
Stir once and immediately add the pumpkin.
Stir well ,
add a bit more of the goda masala if you like.
Cook till done.Sprinkle with chopped green coriander leaves.