This acorn squash curry, known as pumpkin talkari, has had a grip on me since I was a kid. Every time I make it, I’m transported back to those carefree childhood days. Being Punjabi myself, the only time I was treated to this delicious dish was when we would frequent our place of worship, which was run by the Guyanese community. I’d sit through service, waiting patiently to head downstairs where the comforting aromas of fresh dhal puri roti, buss up shut, chana, and this pumpkin talkari greeted my grumbling stomach. Despite all the mouthwatering options, I’d always fill my plate with buss up shut – a flaky West Indian roti you have to try – and pumpkin talkari.
Traditionally, calabaza or butternut squash are used to make talkari. I’ve used acorn squash here, as the one I grew up eating was yellow and the flavour profiles match perfectly. I also sub wiri wiri pepper for scotch bonnet, which is more readily available. West Indian paratha can be purchased from your local West Indian restaurant or bakery, but you can definitely enjoy this with store bought or homemade roti in a pinch! This recipe is my version, based on homey memories of my favourite way to eat squash, and it tastes exactly the way I remember it!
Wearing gloves, prep the scotch bonnet pepper (if using) by deseeding and finely chopping ⅓ to ½ of the peper, depending on your spice tolerance. Discard the seeds. Thoroughly wash hands before continuing on. If using wiri wiri pepper, leave whole, and if using other chilis, finely chop.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat with oil.
Add the onions, scotch bonnet pepper (or other pepper if using), and minced garlic. Sauté until softened and translucent.
Add the diced squash, cumin, salt, light brown sugar and turmeric of using. Mix and sauté until the squash begins to slightly soften, about five minutes.
Add ¼ cup water and mix to combine. Cover and turn the heat down to a very low-medium. Steam for 7 minutes. It’s important to keep the heat at a low-medium so the squash does not dry out and stick to the skillet.
Stir the squash mixture, which should be beginning to soften. Add another quarter cup of water, cover and let steam for another five minutes.
The pumpkin should be quite easily mashed at this point, but may require more water and time. The consistency we are going for is similar to a puree, with some small chunks of squash. Add another quarter cup of water, and cover the skillet for another five minutes one last time.
If using, add in one tablespoon of ghee for shine and a delicious flavour. Mix to combine.
Serve with buss up shut, or whole wheat roti.