Pumpkin talkari is a simple pumpkin side dish enjoyed with any type of roti and sometimes channa and aloo.
Here’s more on pumpkin talkari.
What is talkari
In Trinidad and Tobago, there are side dishes called pumpkin talkari (or takari) and mango talkari. These are made with onions, garlic, green seasoning, and Indian spices.
The term talkari or takari likely comes from tarkari which is a common term used in the Indian subcontinent. Tarkari is most often used to describe any vegetable side dish, especially ones that are stir fried or sauteed.
So, pumpkin talkari simply means a cooked pumpkin side dish.
The pumpkin I’m talking about here is not the North American ones used especially around halloween time. The type I am talking about is the moschata pumpkin species (Cucurbita moschata).
Moschata pumpkins are the most popular pumpkins in the Caribbean and, for some reason, there are so many types and varieties. Some are smooth skinned and elongated (we call these squash) while others are grooved and covered in bumps (we call them crapaud back pumpkins).
Common varieties include crapaud back, Jamaican and Rupee. The differences don’t stop with the skin. The color, texture and sweetness of the pumpkin also differs between varieties.
My mom’s favorite type of pumpkin is the crapaud back. It is relatively sweet, cooks fast and is very easy to grow (she grows her own). But, for this recipe, she used the Rupee variety.
What is in this pumpkin talkari recipe
This recipe is my mom’s. She most often uses:
- methi or fenugreek
- Caribbean green seasoning (with garlic, chadon beni leaves, Spanish thyme and pepper)
It is such a simple recipe.
Optional ingredients can include:
- curry leaf
- bay leaf
- fresh peppers like pimento**
- geera or cumin powder
* Some varieties like the Rupee tend to be very sweet. If your talkari tastes slightly sour when it’s done you can add a little brown sugar to give some sweetness to this side dish.
** Garlic and fresh hot peppers were added to the green seasoning, but you can add it directly in this dish after sauteeing the onions.
How to make this pumpkin talkari
Prep the pumpkin
To make pumpkin talkari, my mom washes and cuts into the pumpkin. She removes the seeds (and ‘guts’) before peeling the skin. Once that’s done, she cuts the peeled sections into relatively thin pieces. Thinner pieces will cook faster.
You can store these pumpkin pieces in the fridge or freezer and cook on a later date. Or simply cover the large, freshly cut pumpkin with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for another day.
My mom keeps her pumpkin seeds to plant and composts the peels and guts.
Here’s the ingredients minus the green seasoning.
Prep the other ingredients
Next, she peels and chops the onion. She usually makes her green seasoning beforehand so that is pretty much it for her prep time.
Oh, she rinses her pumpkin pieces. Now, she’s ready to start cooking.
Saute the aromatics
Mom uses a large heavy pot on medium heat. She allows it to heat up before adding in a few teaspoons of oil – her own homemade coconut oil, mind you.
Next, she adds the methi (fenugreek) seeds and cooks for a minute or so until it begins to pop and turn brown.
Then, it’s time to add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. When that’s done, she drops in her Caribbean green seasoning and stirs for a minute or so. If you are using pimento peppers, curry leaves or bay leaves, now is the time to add them in. The oil should be nicely flavored at this point.
Cook the pumpkin
The last main step is to add the rinsed pumpkin pieces and salt. She mixes everything together and covers the pot for about five minutes or so. The pumpkin should release its own water and shouldn’t stick to the pot. If it does, you can add a tablespoon or two of water.
She covers the pot again for another five minutes before checking and stirring. She usually repeats these steps until the pumpkin has softened completely and can be easily mashed.
Once the pumpkin is almost there, she often uses a potato masher to mash the pumpkin until it is very smooth. Then, she continues cooking until the liquid has boiled off and the pumpkin is fairly dry.
This particular pumpkin was very sweet so there was no need to add a sprinkle of brown sugar at the end.
Pumpkin talkari recipe
Simple pumpkin talkari recipe
- 2 lbs pumpkin
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)
- 1 tbsp green seasoning with garlic, chadon beni, Spanish thyme and pepper
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- pinch of sugar (optional)
- Wash, cut and peel the pumpkin.
- Remove the seeds and ‘guts’.
- Cut into thin pieces.
- Rinse the pumpkin pieces and set aside.
- Wash, peel and chop the onion.
- Place a large pot on medium heat. Leave to heat up.
- Add the oil and methi.
- Toast the methi until they pop and turn brown (1 – 2 minutes).
- Add onions and saute until translucent (about 2 minutes).
- Mix in green seasoning. Cook for another minute.
- Toss in the pumpkin pieces and salt.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Cover and cook for a few minutes (if the pumpkin sticks to the base of the pot, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water.
- Uncover and stir.
- Cover and leave for five minutes.
- Uncover, stir and cover again.
- Repeat in intervals until the pumpkin has completely softened.
- Remove the cover and mash the softened pumpkin until smooth.
- Boil off any excess liquid.
- Taste test and adjust salt, pepper and sugar levels.
- Serve hot.