Mama’s Pumpkin Thoran

Berate me if you must. In my world, a curry needs to be eaten with your hands. I am sore in heart, when I have to eat rice and curry off cold, stainless steel prongs. For the sake of company, I do dine in a ‘civilised’ fashion but when alone, quite alone, I dig in, fingers at the ready. Growing up, I ate in such a ‘primitive’ manner daily and the only cutlery on the table, were serving spoons. As foreign, peasant -like or, as some people have said, yucky as that sounds, there are rules of etiquette. This is no caveman’s banquet.

Your fingers are the only parts of your hand that make contact with the food, your palms must be spotless. You are to eat with only your right hand. Don’t ask what the left is meant to do, it’s reserved for more private, personal cleaning tasks. Licking of fingers is strictly prohibited. Except when no one’s watching. And by no means, are you allowed to put your dirty hands into a serving bowl and serve yourself. Use the left hand, with the serving spoon. But you knew that already.

I love eating with my hands, and The Scotsman has no issues with me reverting to my natural ways when I have made a curry. Lil Lassie too, of late, has attempted the same with an Indian meal, and since the novelty of the method means that she will eat more of the food on her plate, I am happy to encourage her. I tend to make a sort of ball on my plate; rice, curry, a bit of the meat, some vegetable and squish it together to make a neat morsel. Everyone has their own method and balance within that morsel. You really get a sense of the texture of foods; soft, hard or  yielding gently to a little pressure. Like this Pumpkin Thoran my mother used to make. It’s natural sweetness combined with such savoury spicing, ensures its excellent companionship to any main be it a dhal or a lamb/beef/fish curry.

It’s easy. Cook the pumpkin cubes with sliced onions and a little water in a pan on a gentle heat. Once cooked, you could add a small handful of freshly grated coconut. Heat some oil in another small pan and splutter your curry leaves, cumin and fry your garlic until golden. Pour this deeply flavoured oil and its contents onto the fuzzy edged pumpkin and toss gently. The pumpkin will act like a sponge, absorbing that terrific flavour. If you can use Extra Virgin or Virgin Coconut Oil, you will really ooomph up the flavour.

I have my mother (and my father as well, come to think of it!!) to thank for my good health. Her belief in good homemade food being the bearer of  health and happiness, has us standing today. She understood, then, the harm that E numbers, preservatives and additives could cause. Or perhaps, it was her natural mistrust of things she did not know of. Whatever the thinking, this is the kind of meal that we were brought up on day in and out – freshly bought, freshly made, lovingly served. On those occasions when we were ill, she would feed us, making balls of food in her hand, softly saying “aaa”, and plopping the morsel into our open mouths. The taste of food when made by a loving mother’s hand is wonderful, but it feeds more than just the body when her fingers put it into her child’s waiting mouth.

Thanks Ma.


300-350gm approx pumpkin – skinned, deseeded, cut into 1 inch cubes (not the ones used for carving, they are rather tasteless. Butternut squash would work here too.)
1 small onion or half of a medium onion, finely sliced
1 green chilli, split but left intact at the stalk. deseeded (optional)
1 tablespoon of freshly grated coconut, or dessicated coconut that has been soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (optional) Salt to taste

For tempering
4-5 fat garlic cloves, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried chillie flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
good pinch of turmeric powder
2-3 tablespoons of oil, preferably virgin coconut oil

In a frying pan, with a lid, gently cook the onion, green chilli, pumpkin and salt with a wee bit of water. You are effectively steaming the pumpkin. Let it cook on a low flame until tender, but not mushy. Make sure the pan doesn’t dry out. When tender, add the coconut if using. Take the pan off the heat and set aside. Heat the (coconut) oil in a small saucepan. When hot, add the cumin seeds, let it splutter and turn golden, then add the sliced garlic. Cook until it’s fragrant and starts to turn golden. Add the other tempering ingredients, saute´ for 15 seconds and then add it all to the pumpkin. Mix gently and leave it infuse for 5 minutes, before serving.



15 thoughts on “Mama’s Pumpkin Thoran

  1. jobakes

    Oh I have such happy memories of this recipe Carrie – back in the lowest point of last year, you told me how to make this when I was scrabbling to make meals out of the meagre contents of my kitchen. Thank goodness I had a pumpkin gifted to me! I can’t think of this dish without remembering the golden sunshine on my plate in a bit of a bleak spot in my life. So in this way, your mama’s food fed more than just mine and Hungry Hubby’s tummies too – its a joy of a recipe which I trot out often. Thank you so much for sharing it with me, I adore this dish 🙂

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Aww Jo, you are most welcome and I’m glad I happened to recall it to memory at the time 🙂 I’ve seen that you have made it since and am so glad it has earned its place at your table.

  2. bettybobkin

    This sounds like the kind of Indian food I could cope with ! I assume any squash type thing would do ? The description of eating it with your hands was lovely, and took me back to around 1980 when we had lovely neighbours, from Gujerat via Tanzania, who sometimes cooked for us and encouraged us to eat in that manner.

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Haha!I did think of you being able to make this! Yes, any time of squash would do very well. Just make sure that the pan doesn’t run dry to the bone. Gujarati food is absolutely delicious and vegetarian based. Did you enjoy the food? It’s quite rich :-))

  3. Sam-I-am

    Such a lovely post on so many different levels Carrie, least of all food! Pumpkins are still to be found in abundance here in Beirut, might be tempted to make it soon! It sounds heavenly the way you describe it. As for eating with your hands, we do that here too, except that we use pieces of Pita Bread to scoop the food up, especially when dealing with a Mezze spread rather then our actual fingers. The further East one goes, the more tactile one becomes with food I suppose. But I am totally with you about food tasting differently when having been surrounded by ones body heat through one’s fingers. I too have fond memories of my mother scooping a mixture of Labneh (strained yogurt), diced tomatoes and olive oil into a small piece of pita bread with her fingers and into my mouth as a child. Pure mother love! So true! Did I mention the gorgeous photography?!!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Merci Sam! Oh yes, its the only way to have mezze…and that’s how we do it when we go out here to Lebanese restaurants….oh, my mouth is salivating at the thought! You are right though, Indians are much more tactile, the food getting right between your fingers 🙂
      Lovely little tribute to your mother there Sam. I adore Labneh, i could apply it to my face and the sharper, the better!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Not always elegant Thanh O_o …some of the tables I have sat at…ugh.. My father was very particular about how we ate with our hands. Like most parents are about cutlery and elbows on tables and the like. If you try it, I’d love to know what you think 🙂

  4. Melanie

    ahhhhhhhh!!! who could forget those days…….makes me wanna eat yellow fish curry with fried fish , papadum, pickle and rice…..NOOOOO!! my weight loss is in jeopardy just by reading this post…..loved I mean absolutely loved the solitary pumpkin pic at the beginning… think i might ask mum to feed me this evening hahahahahahaa!! … contemplating the look on her face ….

  5. Sam-I-am

    I made it! I did! Not only did I make it, I put it in a hollowed out small pumkin and served it alongside my Brown Lentil Dahl (genius idea from a certain Mhairi Macdonald!), all this for a fancy do at my mother’s and they loved it! Hell I loved the combo, it is beautiful! Thanks again Carrie for all these lovely recipes! You make me look good! 😉 S x

  6. eremophila

    I’ve had a great crop of pumpkins this year, and I love the sound of this – guess what’s on the menu today?!
    Many thanks, I love your style 🙂

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