Kaddu ke Phool or Pumpkin flowers are large peachy orange blooms that are the harbingers of the Pumpkin season in the monsoons in Dehra Dun. They are also one of the many small rewards of having one's own garden. Cooking this dish was somewhat poingnant for me, since it was a year to my father in laws' passing and pumpkin flowers were a favourite with my him, fried into fritters. I remember with fondness the day he introduced them to me for the first time.
So when the food show - The Foodie hosted by Kunal Vijaykar contacted me to do a sow with them last week, these were the first to ome to mind. They'd seen a recipe feature on cooking with flowers I did for mE magazine and intrigued by the topic, they wanted me to do an episode with them on Cooking with flowers. For many reasons, but mostly because it was totally the wrong season for any sort of fresh flower to cook with (the episode would have been totally pointless without fresh flowers), I opted out of my first chance at 15 mins of TV fame!
But in true Rushina style, I had a lineup of dishes cooking in my head even before I put down the phone; Mushroom stuffed Squash Flowers, Flower embossed Pasta in a Saffron Sauce, Hibiscus Halva squares and a Carnation tea, so despite the fact that I did not do the show, I had been hankering after cooking these dishes.
These Mushroom stuffed squash flowers were inspired by a much more exotic dish that I ate a Pure restaurant when it first opened in Mumbai. Mushroom Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Baby Greens and Truffle Oil was presented to me when I went to interview Mischel Nischan - who conceptulised the restaurant - for a story for BTW magazine. It took me a moment to bring up the heart to disrupt the lovely ensemble on my plate, it seemed such a temerity. However, my palate thanked me, with the first bite. The textures were such a brilliant marriage of crunchy tender greens fragrant with Truffle oil, and crisp - tender Squash flowers that gave way to the bounty of earthy flavours of mushroom inside.
Not having access to more exotic ingredients, I was limited to whatever resources I had access to in Dehra dun where the kitchen is more geared for traditional Indian food than world cuisine. So by elimination I honed in on a simple recipe, stuffing blossoms from our garden using local mushrooms from the market (Unfortunately Mausaji's Mushrooms were out of season, they will only be available in October), steamed in a Tupperware steamer and laid on a reduced wine sauce made from the last of Papas homemade Litchi wine and fresh cream.
Mushroom stuffed Pumpkin flowers
1 packet (200-250 gms) button mushrooms
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp oatmeal powder
12 - 15 Squash flowers
For the sauce
1 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup white wine 1 tbsp cream
To prepare flowers, remove the green base and insides and discard. Do this carefully so you get the upper portion intact. Set aside. Chop mushrooms add salt and leave for 10 mins untill the juices are released. Meanwhile combine the pepper and oatmeal an mix well. Squeese out as much of mushroom juice as you can, into a bowl and reserve for sauce. Place mushrooms in another bowl. Add oatmeal mix to the mushrooms and and toss well to coat. (Use your judgment and add more oatmeal if required.) Carefully stuff each blossom with a spoonful of mixture keeping in mind not to over stuff because the flowers will shrink. Steam lightly (I used a Tupperware steamer in the microwave) for about 4 minutes tops.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a nonstick pan and add the onions. Stir fry on a low flame until transparent. Combine the juices from the mushrooms and the wine and add to pan. Allow to simmer until reduced to half. Remove from flame, add cream and taste to check seasoning. Pour into serving dish, lay stuffed flowers over and serve.
NOTE: Pumpkin flowers must be picked prior to sun rise because they are pest magnets.
Apologies for blurry camera pics, but I didn't take my camera along this time.
Here is a link to my column on Indiwo on Mushrooms inspired by Mausaji's Mushrooms and another inspired by our kitchen garden in Dehra Dun.