Sweet and Sour Butternut Squash
- 3 tbsp mustard oil or olive oil
- 1 pinch asafetida* ground
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds or yellow
- 600 g butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp yogurt
- 2 tbsp cilantro chopped
Pour the oil into a frying pan and set over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the squash. Continue to cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the squash pieces just start to brown.
Add 60 ml of water, cover, turn heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Add the salt, sugar, cayenne and yogurt. Stir and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the yogurt is absorbed and no longer visible. Sprinkle in the cilantro and stir a few times.
Notably, asafoetida is thought to be in the same genus as silphium, a North African plant now believed to be extinct, and was used as a cheaper substitute for that historically important herb from classical antiquity. The species are native to the deserts of Iran and mountains of Afghanistan, but are mainly cultivated in nearby Pakistan and India.
This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickling. It plays a critical flavoring role in Indian vegetarian cuisine by acting as a savory enhancer. Used along with turmeric, it is a standard component of lentil curries such as dal, in chickpea curries, as well as in numerous vegetable dishes, especially those based on potato and cauliflower. It is sometimes used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty, and spicy components in food. The spice is added to the food at the time of tempering. Sometimes dried and ground asafoetida (in very small quantities) can be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salad.
Garlic chives are an excellent substitute for asafoetida. Simply combining fresh garlic and fresh onion can also provide much of the flavor that would get from asafoetida. You will need to use this alternative in a dish where the fibrous bulk will not be an issue or you can opt to blend or grate them.
(Extracts from Wikipedia)
Reccipe and photography by New York Times: cooking / Tara Parker-Pope