Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao (and ‘The Siege’)

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.

Dome of the Taj Hotel (Image Credit- tajhotels.com)

Dome of the Taj Hotel
(Image Credit- tajhotels.com)

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. 

Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash for the Rice Pulao

Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash for the Rice Pulao

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. 

Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao with Crunchy Spring Onion, Inspired by Mumbai’s Ever-evolving Trendy Food Scene

Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao with Crunchy Spring Onion,
Inspired by Mumbai’s Ever-evolving Trendy Food Scene

Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao
Serves 2
An easy-to-prepare, healthful and flavorful, winter-perfect meal using oven or pan roasted Indian spiced fiber rich butternut squash and crunchy spring onions to make a brown or white Basmati rice Pulao.
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Ingredients
To Roast the Butternut Squash
  1. ½ lb butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. ¼ teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
  4. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  5. 1/8 teaspoon (pinch) garam masala
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
To Make the Pulao-Rice Preparation
  1. 2 cups cooked brown or white basmati rice ( here’s an article that tells you how)
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 3 stalks of spring onion, leaf and bulb
  5. 2 cloves (about 1 teaspoon) chopped garlic
  6. ½ Serrano pepper, finely chopped (use Jalapenos for a lesser kick)
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  8. ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  9. ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  10. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Directions
  1. 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.
  2. For pan roasting: add the butternut squash to a hot non-stick skillet and cook till the pieces get a caramelized look.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Serve warm Spiced Butternut Squash Basmati Rice Pulao as an entrée on a busy weeknight or a side with your favorite meat or vegetable.
For a Spicier Kick
  1. 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.
Peri's Spice Ladle http://www.perisspiceladle.com/
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel with the Gateway of India (Image Credit- tajhotels.com)

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel with the Gateway of India
(Image Credit- tajhotels.com)

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Comments

  1. says

    The Mumbai attacks were so shocking, like the New York and London ones before them. But we pick ourselves up and carry on don’t we. And I’m loving your dish today, I have a piece of pumpkin leftover in the fridge and know what I’m going to use it for now, thank you !

    • says

      Oh, definitely agree with you on that, its always a test of the resilience of big cities and its people that survives and shines through…

      Thanks Claire, you’ll love this recipe. I often run through the hot-out-of-the-oven spiced butternut squash before it even reaches the pulao stage! LOL.

  2. says

    The squash looks fantastic with the recipe – what a wonderful combination! And I too can never understand terrorist actions. It would seem to be better to put that energy and efforts towards finding peaceful solutions.

  3. says

    Hi Peri,

    None of us Mumbaikars would ever forget that fateful night of November 26, 2008. The Taj still remains an icon of the citys undying spirit and a zest for life. I have had many a meal there and will do so in the years to come. So heartwarming to see your love for the city . Some one so rightly said “you can take the Mumbaikar out of Mumbai, but you cannot take Mumbai out of the Mumbaikar”…

    Nice dish as well :)

    • says

      Well put, Elson! And the spirit of Mumbai stays alive and continues to thrive in-spite of such odds. I like how wonderfully this books brings out the vibrancy of our city and gives a humane touch to the events.

      Thanks, this recipe gives butternut squash a new home:)

  4. says

    I plan to see this beautiful hotel in Mumbai while we tour India in March/April for a month. But for now, I will make this dish. This will be my husband’s 3rd time and my first time to India. Really looking forward to celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary while there.

    • says

      I’m so super excited for your visit:) Congratulations on the big 5-0! That’s worth a celebration and visit to India!

      India can touch your heart in ways very few places can…and a visit to the Taj hotel is a must; if you’re in the mood for a light meal, check out the Shamiana or Starboard in there and for a very special celebration (serious big bucks!) plan a special evening at the Zodiac Grill (Kahlua mousse there is a must try! Hope they still have it on the menu.) And club your visit to the Taj with a walk around the Gateway of India and some of the museums in that area and shop a bit at the Colaba causeway, some good deals to be had:)

      You’ll love the spicy roasted touch to this butternut pulao, absolutely wholesome and delightful.

  5. says

    Dear Peri, we’ve been talking about you, India and that beautiful Taj Hotel with a friend, whose husband recently went to India and so mesmerised with the country. This is a beautiful piece dear friend, and a very memorable way to remember that beautiful landmark.. I think so important to remember and as you say, the resilience of the good.. Your seasonal, wholesome dish looks wonderful, another delicious one to look forward to!: ) Ozlem xx

    • says

      It really is a beautiful hotel property and so glad to see this landmark still standing tall and proud against the Bombay skyline:) And thrilled to hear about your friend’s visit to India. Fingers-crossed we can make it there together someday soon…You’ll love this pulao, Ozlem, with spices right out of the pantry. Thanks! XXPeri.

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