Don’t you think pumpkins and squash with their interesting shapes and colors make great subjects for still life art?


  I don’t know a lot of  people who would say that winter squashes are their most favorite vegetables but these knobbly, wobbly veggies are so versatile that it is such a pleasure to cook with them. You slowly come to see their potential and in turn begin to love them.

I was at a Moroccon restaurant last year and one of the dishes I ordered was a vegetable stew. It had big pieces of pumpkin, squash, potatoes and carrots in a very bland sauce served over the couscous. My Indian palette having been assaulted with spices and fiery heat since birth needed some oomph to spike the stew. The waiter gave me this exotic spice paste called Harissa which had me at Hello! and it totally transformed the dish.

 So here is my creation inspired by that visit. I found it interesting that the vegetables were steamed. A very healthy way to prepare vegetables and I am doing this more often now. I diced the vegetables to bite sized pieces instead of the very chunky pieces served at the restaurant. Made a tomato, onion gravy, added the Harissa paste and the steamed vegetables and what a colorful, flavorful way to prepare winter vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                           The soul of this dish is the North African spice paste which I am sure has as  many variations as there are people preparing it. The key ingredients being chillies, garlic and caraway seeds. However cumin and coriander are among some of the other spices that can also be added to the spice paste.

Autumn Vegetable Stew

For the Harissa

7-8 Kashmiri chillies [available at Indian stores, these chillies are very mild but give an intense red color, can substitute another chili pepper with similar characteristics]

2 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered coriander seeds

2 teaspoons roasted and powdered cumin seeds

1 teaspoon roasted and powdered caraway seeds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

For the vegetables

1/2 cup of diced potatoes

1/2 cup diced sweet potatoes

1/2 cup diced acorn squash

1/2 cup diced white acorn squash

1/2 cup of diced butternut squash

{Skin peeled. I left a little bit of skin on. Consuming the skin is good for you and it looks pretty to boot}

1/2 cup carrots rounds

1 tablespoon of light olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onions

1 cup of roughly chopped red juicy tomatoes

A couple of pinches of cinnamon[optional]

Chopped parsley/ cilantro for garnish


 Soak the chillies and garlic in hot water for 15 minutes. Grind the chillis and garlic with all the spice powders and a tablespoon of the soaking liquid.  Add the olive oil to the paste and set aside. This is your Harissa paste. {if storing for later use add salt to taste}

Set up a steamer and steam all the veggies. Carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes take 9-10 minutes. The rest take 7-8 minutes. You can steam all the vegetables in a double tier steamer at the same time. The veggies should be a little undone in the center.




                                                                                                                    Remove  the vegetables from the steamer as soon as they are done, so steam does not condense on the vegetables and make them soggy. Spread them out. At this stage, after the veggies have cooled you can store them in the fridge along with the Harissa paste for upto two days before proceeding to the next stage.

                                                                                                                                                           Heat a pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onions for a couple of minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook in a moderate flame till the tomatoes break down and you have a homogenous tomato, onion sauce. Add 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of Harissa paste and mix into the sauce. Add the 3 cups of steamed veggies. Add salt to taste. Gently work the gravy to coat all the veggies, and add the cinnamon powder. Put a lid on the pan and let the veggies cook in the gravy for about 5 minutes. If the gravy is drying out add some water or the soaking liquid from the chillies. The veggies are done when the spices, flavors and salt have permeated the veggies. Check for salt and consistancy. Add water if you want it runnier. Garnish with your choice of herbs. I served it with lentils and couscous.

                                                                                                                                                          A dish using seasonal vegetables and reflecting the colors of the season, just perfect for Thanksgiving.

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy Thanksgiving, S.