Thursday, November 24, 2016

Damroot - Winter Squash Halwa


Fall in Portland is beautiful and bountiful!The awesome display of orange, yellow, red, purple and various shades of green of the Autumn foliage turns the entire Pacific North West into a fairy land.This is also the time to celebrate the bountiful harvest of pumpkins! Pumpkin patches throughout the the region organize Pumpkin Festivals with lots of entertainment for the whole family.
Lake View Farms near Beaverton is situated amidst a vast stretch of wet lands surrounded by emerald green fields.The famed Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course lies right across the pumpkin patch.The vast and slushy field is scattered with bright rain washed pumpkins shimmering in the morning sun.The spectacular view of the snow clad Mount Hood in the far away horizon is breath taking.
We jostle along the long line to get tickets for the mini train which shuttles to and from the pumpkin patch.Another mode of transportation is the sternwheeler boats which breeze through the adjoining lake.The mini train chugs through tunnels with pumpkin and Halloween decorations before it reaches us to the pumpkin patch.Amidst hundreds of pumpkins sitting on slush we see kids screeching excitedly as they play and monkey around the jungle gym, slide, and maze - all built with bales of hay. Pony ride and face painting are real crowd / kid pullers!
We extricate the choicest of pumpkins from the bed of slush caused by the previous night's heavy rain, and pile them up into a wheel barrow. We wheel it towards the edge of the lake stepping cautiously lest the wet earth dragged us down!We get into the boat which sails through the mechanized dragons and sharks which do the heads up only to submerge into the blue waters after we pass through.We sail by a haunted pirate ship, encounter a spooky boatman in a loan boat and finally land on slushy ground once again.After paying for the pumpkins we walk to our car with our hands loaded with pumpkins,giant popcorn packets and our grand kids!A dirty but happy lot,we reach home dreaming of a warm shower and a hot welcoming soup!After a thorough shower in the garden hose our sparkling  pumpkins sit on our doorstep waiting to be carved or cooked for Halloween!
Jack'o'lanterns are ready to be lit!Damroot is ready to be savoured! We are ready to enjoy a back to back celebration of Halloween and Deepavali!

Autumn foliage
View of Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course across the pumpkin patch
View of Mount Hood on the horizon

The mini train
Slide supported by bales of hay

Dragon and the boat

Spooky boatman

Here I am sharing the recipe of Damroot / Parangikai Halwa for you to enjoy!
Pumpkin (grated) - 1 cup
Grated Cottage cheese/Paneer - 1 cup
Milk - 2 cups
Sugar - 11/2 cups (roughly)
Cardamom (powdered) - 1 pinch
Almond slivers - for garnishing
Ghee - 1/4 cup
1. Heat 2 tbsps of ghee in thick bottomed pan and add the grated pumpkin.

2. Stir and cook till the raw smell disappears.
3. Stir in the paneer and cook for two or three more minutes.

4. Add milk and cook the pumpkin-paneer mixture till it comes together into a translucent mass.
5. Add sugar and stir well.The quantity of sugar should be equivalent to that of the cooked pumpkin-paneer mixture.

6. Keep stirring till the sugar melts and add ghee little by little when the Damroot starts to thicken.

7. When Damroot acquires a rich colour and a pleasant aroma mix in the cardamom powder and switch off flame.

8.Immediately transfer the Damroot into a bowl so that it stays soft.
9. Garnish with ghee fried almond slivers.

Enjoy the rich and warm Damroot as it is or with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkin Fest At Wappatoo Island And A Festive Pumpkin Sambar

Dark clouds loom over the rain drenched Tualatin Mountains, also known as the Portland West Hills, as we speed down the curves and sharp bends snaking through the dense evergreen vegetation. We exit the folds of the mountains and drive on the highway which runs along the Multnomah channel. We cut across the channel over the Sauvie Island bridge and take another left turn after the bridge. And wow! We are awestruck at the verdant farm land that lies before us, which seems to stretch endlessly beyond the horizon revealing  itself in all its glory!Yes! We are at the Sauvie Island which was originally known as the Wappatoo Island ! We drink in the beauty of the breath taking scenery of the vast green fields studded with the just harvested bright yellow pumpkins against the back drop of the magnificent  mountains crowned with rain laden clouds.

The wetland preserve which attracts  hoards of migrating birds and other wild life, is home to private farms, nurseries and gardens.The  fertile land produces strawberries, raspberries, black berries, blue berries, peaches, pears and many more fruits in abundance. Corn is grown along with other vegetable crops. 
Our visit to a private farm - Bella Organics - coincided with the ongoing  pumpkin festival which promised a lot of fun activities especially for children. Hay rides were taking people out to the pumpkin patch and dropping them back.Walking in the fields and picking up the pumpkins of our choice was a thrilling experience. It was so baffling to choose and pick from the thousands of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes scattered all over the field. Colours of the pumpkins ranged from white, white with green stripes, pale green, dark green, yellow and  orange, to the variegated patterns of a variety known as the Carnival pumpkins.
A joy ride in the Cow Train was a hit among the excited children. A Grain Train was also in operation. Kids could pet and feed the farm animals in the Petting Zoo. Face painting and racing the toy ducks in water channels using hand pumps were other attractions children enjoyed. Corn Maze was a major attraction for visitors who loved adventure. A walk on the 2 1/2 mile pathway designed like a maze amidst the corn fields and finding the way back was indeed a difficult task. Horror buffs had a field day at The Haunted corn maze! 
Gourmet food stalls, shops selling Hard Cider and Food pavilions were lined up at the Market Place.
After an exciting walk around the pumpkin patch and after having picked up the heavy pumpkins of our choice, we replenished our energy with a combo plate consisting of falafel, parsley salad, hummus  and pita bread. Curly fries were most welcome for the chill weather. We enjoyed elephant ears and caramel apple  for dessert.
After spending a joyful time at the pumpkin patch in spite of the cold weather and intermittent showers - but that is Portland! -  we happily lugged our cart load of pumpkins towards the exit point for billing. Each pumpkin was made to sit on the pricing table where the circumference of the pumpkin was measured and then billed.It was surprising to note that  the price of the pumpkin was determined by its circumference, and not by its weight!

Pumpkins with Corn Fields in the background
Hay ride
'U pick' pumpkin patch

Cow train
A Pumpkin Square at the market place
Carnival Pumpkins
Pricing table
Back home the biggest pumpkin is waiting to become the Jack - 'o' - lantern for Halloween at my daughter-in-law's expert hands.The smallest one was subjected to an artistic colour and glitter splash by my three year old grand daughter. I used a medium sized pumpkin to make a Festive Sambar for the family.

Here is the recipe for a hot and spicy Festive Pumpkin Sambar, perfect for a cold day. 

Let us start with the making of a flavoursome Sambar Masala Powder.


Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Bengalgram Dal - 1 tsp
Black gram dal  - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Red chillies - 8
Cinnamon - 1/2 inch stick
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Sesam oil - 1/2 tsp


1.Heat oil in a pan and add cinnamon.
2.When it emanates a pleasant aroma add coriander seeds, Bengal gram dal, Black gram dal, fenugreek seeds and the red chillies together and roast on medium flame till you get a pleasant aroma.
3.Stir in asafoetida powder, switch off flame and allow to cool.
4.Powder all the roasted ingredients together using a mixer.
Now the Sambar Masala Powder is ready to use.


Pumpkin - 1 (medium size)
Tamarind - a small lime size ball or 1 1/2 tsps if it is a concentrate
Split yellow pigeon peas( Tur Dal) - 1 cup
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Salt - 2 tsps


Sesame oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 pinch
Peanuts - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1 ( finely chopped)
Curry leaves - a few


1.Peel and cut the pumpkin into half.

2.Scoop out the seeds and cut the halved pumpkin into cubes. Make the cubes big because small pieces tend to disintegrate or melt away while cooking.

3.Pressure cook dal in 2 cups of water with turmeric powder, up to three whistles and allow to cool.
4.Soak tamarind and extract the juice into a large vessel. 
5.Add salt and the big cubes of pumpkin. Add more water to cover the pumpkin pieces, so that there is enough room for the big pumpkin cubes to cook without clashing.
6.Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
7.When the seeds splutter add the peanuts and roast till they crack.
8.Add chopped onion and curry leaves and fry till the onions become pinkish in colour.
9.Pour the seasoning into the vessel containing tamarind water and the pumpkin cubes, and set it on medium flame.
10.Cook till the pumpkin is just done and do not allow it to become mushy.
11.Remove the cooked dal from the cooker, mash well and add it to the sambar.
12.Mix Sambar Masala powder in 1/4 cup of water and add it to the sambar and stir gently taking care not to mash up the pumpkin.
13.Cook for two or three minutes till the Sambar Masala blends well and till the sambar gives out a very pleasant aroma.
14.Switch off flame and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
15.Keep the sambar covered so that the flavour does not escape.

Relish the Festive Pumpkin Sambar with steaming hot rice and a dollop of ghee.