I recently visited India again.
Now since I moved out of India some 15 years ago, I am pretty much used to being asked where I am from on almost a daily basis. On most days you will find me indulgent but sometimes seriously it gets a bit tiresome when people continuously cannot place you! It’s enough to put someone in an identity crisis… :)
Or I could look at it proudly as hey-look-at-me-I’m-truly-a-world-citizen-because-you-have-no-idea-where-I-could-be-from, sort of thing! I could yes but I usually don’t. I usually find it extremely funny. Now I am from India. But I have been called Nepalese, Brazilian, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Moroccan, Russian (???), someone even thought I was Chinese! So, anyone but Indian. Ha!
But on this trip it was especially hilarious when in one evening this happened:
I am on my way back to Holland and at the airport getting ready to get on my long flight back. So while I wait for the Indian gentleman at the immigration counter, he slowly looks at me and asks me something in English. I reply in Hindi assuming of course that he speaks the national language. He does, but is shocked that I do! Huh? My name in the passport cannot get any more Indian, so I look at him puzzled and ask why he is surprised. He says, “you look like a foreigner and for a foreigner speak very good Hindi.” Is it me or is does he still not understand where I am from. I mean I understand someone may be confused with the way you look but c’mon the name in the passport??? I just laugh nervously and move along.
Cut to; standing in line for people trying to get into the airplane and I get talking to an American lady, who politely (but with no less shock in her voice) comments on how good my English is! Oh hahaha.
Oh but wait it gets so much better.
I finally get to my seat. I just hate this part the most. Trying to find my bearings and anxiously waiting for who I am going to spend the next 8 hours of my life with. However, this time I don’t have to wait to see who but am greeted by an older couple who were clearly Dutch. Their towering height said it all. Now the lady had greeted me in French but I thought, ah she’s just being chic! Oh but no the lady proceeded to go into a French conversation with who seemed to be clearly me. I was not sure whether to laugh out loud or politely interrupt. I decided to wait it out. When the lady looked at me in what looked like a confused expression of “why are you not replying back?”, I did so immediately by telling her in English, “Uh I don’t speak French”. What ensues defies logic. The lady replies back in English asking me (yes asking me, as if it is not enough that I just said I don’t speak French, therefore probably am not French!)… “You’re not French??? You look very French!”. Now I was very flattered and smiled generously and replied in Dutch saying I was not French at all but actually Indian. At which she commented on how great my Dutch was! OMG!
I must look like someone who should be mute! Hahahaha. It clearly made my day though and put me in a very good mood.
Now the pumpkin is a vegetable I have been similarly wrong in judging. I refused to eat it as a kid because of the way it looked and perhaps tasted. I don’t know because I never tasted it. I only recently tried my mothers pumpkin recipe and well I was blown away but still remained skeptical to its other uses. It was the Pumpkin Frappuccino last post. And this time its a scrumptious soup. It’s a vegetable that continues to surprise and I love that.
Lots of spices with a fresh tangy spicy coconut chutney. I am proud to say I was licking the pans till they needed no washing!
Like any soup this is also great to make ahead in time and freeze so you can enjoy it as a quick meal because it is quite wholesome all on its own…
for the coconut chutney
1/2 cup fresh coconut (with the brown hard skin removed)
3-4 fresh green chilies (or according to taste)
15 grams roasted peanuts
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsps plain yoghurt
pinch of salt
Dry roast the peanuts on medium fire for a few minutes. Grind all the ingredients. Do not over process. It should still be a little chunky.
for the soup
1 kilo orange pumpkin (cut roughly into cubes, you can remove the skin later like I did)
2 tsps coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp nigella seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 fresh green chilies (or according to how spicy you like it)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
750 ml water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.
Place the coriander, cumin and mustard and nigella seeds in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Then grind in a mortar and pestle. Transfer the spice mixture to a small bowl and add about half the olive oil and mix well. Place the chopped pumpkin in a roasting pan, toss thoroughly with the spice mixture. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. Let cool and then remove the skin. Be careful not to throw away the wonderful spices with the skin!
Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the roast pumpkin, stock or water and tamarind paste. Bring to the boil and cover. Let simmer gently for around 20 minutes. Blend the soup with a hand mixer or in a food processor until smooth. Return to the saucepan, season to taste, and return to a simmer and stir in the milk. Pour into bowls and serve with a big spoonful of the coconut chutney.