Today’s lunch mood totally called for some good ol home cooking with flavors from South India (specifically Tamil/TamBrahm cooking) I realize now how effortlessly vegan so many foods I grew up on were! Vegan food at its best IMO is Indian. But hey, I may be biased :)
Sweet butternut squash roasted to golden perfection with nutty coconut and crunchy lentils w/a hint of red chilli is wholesome perfection. Paired with creamy spinach mixed with warm cumin and golden fried coconut is a weekend win! While traditionally eaten with rice or any other millet/grain, I’ve diverged and love me some cauliflower rice with these!
For butternut squash-coconut stir fry:
2 cups chopped butternut squash (I used 1 medium squash, peeled and cubed)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp white urad dal (whole or halved is fine)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 dried red chillies
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut (I used the frozen ‘while fresh’ bag from my indian grocery. Thaw to room temperature)
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
2 tbsp gingely oil (I always use ‘idhayam’ brand available at most indian grocers)
For spinach mash:
1 lb baby spinach (if you’re using regular spinach, you may want to chop them into bite size pieces)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small pinch asafoetida
1 tsp canola oil
2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (I used the frozen ‘while fresh’ bag from my indian grocery. Thaw to room temperature)
1 dried red chilli
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
Butternut squash-coconut stir fry:
Prep the fresh butternut squash.
Heat gingely oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, urad dal, asafoetida and turmeric. Saute for 10-15 seconds, until the dal turns golden, and the mustard seeds start popping. Then add the dried red chillies and saute for 5 more seconds.
Toss in chopped squash, sprinkle the measured salt, and mix thoroughly.
Cover and cook for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, toss the veggies around so they evenly brown.
After 10 mins, check for doneness, and cook for another 2 mins if necessary. The squash should fully cooked and creamy tender, yet remain firm on the outside.
At this stage, increase the heat to high and add the grated coconut. Mix well and let this cook together for 5 minutes. Make sure you keep gently stirring to evenly crisp the squash and coconut together.
Best served piping hot!
Spinach Coconut mash:
Place a sauce pan over medium heat, and add the pound of spinach with a couple of tablespoons of water and measured salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. As you know the quantity will dramatically reduce once the spinach is cooked.
Cook until the spinach is completely cooked/wilted but still retains it’s green. Once cooked, use the back of a spatula to gently start mashing the cooked spinach. I used tender baby spinach so the mashing was really easy. If you’re using regular spinach, make sure they’re chopped into smaller pieces to make this mashing easier.
We’re looking for a chunky mash, not a smooth puree. So whatever you’re able to manage with the back of a spoon or ladle is fine :)
In a separate small pan, heat the measured canola oil over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and wait 10 seconds until they start spluttering. Then add asafoetida and dried red chilli and fry for 10-15 more seconds until the coconut is fried to light golden and remove from heat.
Add the fried cumin coconut mixture to the cooked/mashed spinach, mix well and serve hot!