The 7-day cook-off: Day 1

Frankly, I cooked up this challenge while cycling last morning. I was thinking about what I wanted to cook for Equinox and remember counting the days till September the 23rd. The thought then occurred – why not do a series of posts with recipes till the end of the month?

To make it all the more exciting, I wanted a challenge. Hence, the idea to have a countdown series followed. I have to make ten recipes with just the number of ingredients as the days remaining in the month. September 21st – 10 remaining days, a 10-ingredient recipe. September 22nd – 9 days, a 9-ingredient recipe, and so on.

I also needed the recipes to be simple and easy to cook. No Googling the terminologies and cooking techniques. These are all one-pot dishes, needing few uncomplicated items and just a fraction of your time.

For today’s challenge, it was the pumpkin chicken recipe. I admit Mum helped me out; I was struggling with the ingredients last night. This sweet-spicy recipe is whole and hearty, complete for an afternoon lunch or that dinner with friends. The chicken is juicy and succulent and the pumpkin just adds a nice balance to it, as all vegetables do. I served it with some steamed rice in a bowl.

Pumpkin Chicken


Total time to make: 35-40 mins | Prep time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 25-30 mins


  1. Chicken – 400 grams
  2. Pumpkin – 250 grams; cut into large chunks
  3. Tomatoes – 2 medium sized; quartered
  4. Onions – 4 medium sized; roughly chopped
  5. Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tablespoon
  6. Chillies – 2-4 (depending on their heat, I like it quite spicy)
  7. Powder spices:
    • Cumin powder – 1 and a half teaspoons
    • Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
    • Chicken Masala – 2 teaspoons
    • Chilli powder – 1 teaspoon (this one was just for colour)
  8. Whole spices:
    • Peppercorn – 5-6
    • Bay leaves – 2 small ones (or 1 big one)
    • Cinnamon – A 1-inch stick
    • Cardamom – Green & Black (2 of each)
    • Cloves – 2-3
  9. Mustard Oil – 2 tablespoons
  10. Curd – 1 tablespoon


Heat the mustard oil in a wide pan and add the whole spices, toasting them for a bit. Drop in the diced onions and chillies, frying them till slightly crisp on the edges.

Add the ginger-garlic paste and continue to fry, stirring the ingredients in the pan. It’s very important to not let anything burn, but you can allow a little fond to settle. It just adds to the essence.

Plonk the chicken into the pan and fry till it’s brown on the sides, collecting some more fond in the process. The powdered spices follow and the pumpkin and tomatoes just moments later. This is also where you season the pan with some salt.

The tomatoes will melt and the pumpkin will soften, cooking the chicken beautifully alongside. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. You also need to keep scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the constituents from sticking at the bottom.

After a while, there will some liquid in the pan – proof that you are on the right track. Make sure the heat is still on low and add the spoonful of curd. You need to be quick on your feet, or hands in this case. The curd will split if you don’t stir it soon after adding.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to rest. Check for seasoning and add some more salt if needed, or balance it with some sugar and lemon juice if it’s a bit over.

The dish goes best with some steamed rice and a heap of freshly chopped coriander.

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