This winter, I’ve been reading Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s newly released book ‘The Siege: 68 Hours Inside The Taj Hotel‘, an account of the events that lead to, and unfolded on that fateful day in 2008 when terrorists from across the Indian border lead simultaneous attacks on my native city of Mumbai.
For me, the terrorists struck too close to home, and this book brings back memories of November 26th 2008, when we sat at our home in Austin, receiving real time information on the relentless strikes on the stunningly beautiful over-a-century old Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a place where my husband and I had collectively spent almost two decades of our work life.
Along with the Taj, many other landmarks in the city were targets, including our favorite post-work hangout, the Leopold Cafe right behind the Taj hotel, where we friends would gather to laugh and chat away a long day’s fatigue.
As I read with intrigue about the elaborate plot and complex characters behind this attack; my mind is finally able to let go of the inevitable ‘Shoulda Coulda Woulda’ of such dastardly acts as 9-11 in New York and 26-11 in Mumbai, cause there’s little good people can do to prepare for such strong intent to harm unarmed fellow humans. As always, one thing that comes out on top in the fight of good vs. evil is the resilience of the city under siege and the spirit of goodness itself.
So last summer on my recent visit to India, when I walked into the bustling lobby of the Taj Hotel, and stood at the base of the grand staircase, taking in the grandeur of the 6-story high dome and giving a respectful nod to the proud bust of the Taj’s Parsi Zoroastrian founder Sir Jamsetji Tata; I was grateful that a landmark so precious had survived this attack and come out on top, stronger than ever before.
Inspired by Mumbai’s ever-evolving trendy food scene and a delightful spiced squash dish I tasted on my last visit; today’s recipe is a simple, flavorful, fiber-rich winter meal, using roasted Indian spiced seasonal butternut squash and crunchy spring onions to make a brown or white Basmati rice Pulao.
Enjoy this Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao as an entrée on a busy weeknight or a side with your favorite meat or vegetable.
- ½ lb butternut squash, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) garam masala
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cooked brown or white basmati rice ( here’s an article that tells you how)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 3 stalks of spring onion, leaf and bulb
- 2 cloves (about 1 teaspoon) chopped garlic
- ½ Serrano pepper, finely chopped (use Jalapenos for a lesser kick)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- In a small bowl, mix the olive oil with spices and add butternut squash to it, coating all the pieces with the spice oil. Then follow the steps to pan or oven roast the squash.
- For pan roasting: add the butternut squash to a hot non-stick skillet and cook till the pieces get a caramelized look.
- For oven roasting: preheat the oven to 400F and spread the butternut squash in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes till the squash has a light golden crust.
- In a shallow sauté pan, heat olive oil and add mustard seeds, spring onion, chopped garlic and Serrano pepper to it. Sauté the aromatics for a couple of minutes, then add the cooked basmati rice and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Add a tablespoon or two of water as required to heat the rice through.
- Gently stir in the roasted butternut squash. Drizzle lemon juice over the Pulao and check for salt, adding more if required. Turn off the flame and keep covered for the flavors to blend.
- Serve warm Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao as an entrée on a busy weeknight or a side with your favorite meat or vegetable.
- Use an entire chopped Serrano pepper or 2 finely chopped Thai chili peppers, and increase the ground red chili or Cayenne pepper to ½ teaspoon.
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