The great chef’s life in Delhi.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Meet the Julia Child of south Delhi’s quiet and serene neighborhood Asian Games Village.

A sociology professor, Kiranmayi Bhushi lives in a book-filled apartment. She shares it with her cat, Maharani. (The terrace with its dozens of plants is especially lovely.)

Ms Bhushi hails from Hyderabad, though she has been living in Delhi for 30 years. In 2009, she co-founded the iconic but now-defunct Gunpowder restaurant in Hauz Khas Village. “One of the most popular dishes in Gunpowder was the sweet & sour pumpkin,” says Ms Bhushi. Here is the recipe of this dish.

Sweet & sour pumpkin is called gummadi kai in Telugu. Its recipe is a recollection of the smells and tastes of our family kitchen in Hyderabad. My mother was never interested in food and the kitchen administration was usually left to our Muslim cook who hailed from the coastal Andhra region. However, my father, Ram Das, often cooked. A government officer, he had a passion for the theater. He also sang, sewed, and painted. He nudged all of us children into cooking. Father died two years ago. My most discerning critic, he would always review my dishes by first showering me with compliments and then gently giving me corrective feedback. I learned to make sweet & sour pumpkin from him, which he learned from the rustic cooking of his mother.

Sweet & sour pumpkin (for four)

½ kilo pumpkin (look for the orange inside and green outside)
1 small knob of tamarind (size of a small lime)
About an inch of jaggery
1/2 tablespoon red chilli powder
3-4 whole dried red chillies, each broken into two (can be kept whole if one desires to reduce the intensity of chilly heat)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon ghee/butter
1 tablespoon oil
20-30 curry leaves

Dice pumpkin — after taking off the outer skin (bits of green skin add to the color so do not peel off the skin completely) — into chunky two inch pieces.

Place the vegetable into a pressure cooker. Add tamarind, jaggery, chilly powder and 20ml water.

Lock the lid of the cooker and place it on the gas burner. One whistle or so is enough to cook the pumpkin. Make sure not to overcook it into a pulp.

Set aside the cooker. Add salt and mash the pumpkin lightly with a spatula. Avoid turning it into a mush.

The essence of this dish lies in the garnish or tadka. Pour ghee and oil in a small wok and place it over medium heat. Add crushed garlic a minute later and wait for it to turn brown. Now add mustard seeds and whole red chilies, and let them crackle and sputter. Throw in the curry leaves. Immediately transfer the tadka into the pumpkin mash. You are ready to serve the dish that has been in my family for generations.

The making of sweet & sour pumpkin

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