Pumpkins Are For Food

I stand against the wasteful carving of pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns at Halloween. Every time I see a yard full of rotting pumpkins, I think about the people in our city streets without food, the working people whose families don’t have enough for all the hungry mouths, and those living in places of famine or food shortage. Pumpkins are for food. So, here is a simple pumpkin recipe I made this week.

Pumpkin Ital Stew

There are a lot of ways to make Ital Stew, but the general idea is that it’s got a variety of vegetables, loaded with herbs and spices, all tied together by coconut milk. I make mine starting with a sauteed flavor-base, though others start with the liquid first. Here’s how I did this on Monday:

  1. Prep. Finely dice one red onion, several cloves of garlic, and a chunk of ginger root. You’ll also need to quarter the pumpkins, remove the seeds, peel the outer rind, and cut into roughly 1″ cubes. I did this with 2 pumpkins and followed the same procedure with 3 patty pan squashes. You can use any vegetables, tubers, fresh herbs, even legumes in here. Prep first.
  2. Base. I started building the flavor-base for this by sauteeing diced onions in olive oil on medium heat. Once they were transparent and soft, I added the ginger and garlic to cook down as well. This is the Kenyan way to start pretty much any dish, so I do this by habit now and it’s a delicious way to start stews, soups, greens, lots of things.
  3. Big Stuff. Whatever veggies you are using, the starchy root vegetables need to go in the pot before everything else. They’ll take longer to cook. I added my pumpkins at this stage, mixing them well with the flavor base.
  4. Liquids. At this point I added 2 cans of coconut milk (the good stuff from Thailand) and probably 1 cup of water. This is going to pick up the flavors of the base I created and boil the vegetables I’m about to add.
  5. More Veggies. I added a bag of heirloom carrots in various colors (not orange), and the patty pan squash. They all get mixed in with the pumpkin, the flavor base, and the liquids.
  6. Spices. All I did with this one is Tumeric and Curry Powder. The curry powder has salt, pepper, and other spices in it, so that did the trick. Mixed it really well with all the other stuff to make sure every surface got coverage.
  7. Cook. By this point, the pot has been sitting on medium heat since the oil went in to sautee the onions. Each stage added more stuff to what was already cooking. So, it’s actually been cooking the entire time, but now I’m going to cover it and let it cook the rest of the way. I think this stew took about a half hour covered on medium heat before everything was a good texture to enjoy. You’ll have to test yours frequently to make sure you don’t over or under-cook.

Give it a shot. Save a pumpkin. Remember this one for the future when you want to try doing something with that cocoyam, dasheen, or taro. This is a great dish to use with new vegetables you haven’t tried before and aren’t sure how to cook.

Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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