Make Ahead

Pumpkin 'Brain' Chutney

September 26, 2016
2 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Makes 3 cups
Author Notes

As the name suggests, this chutney's key ingredient is the innards of the pumpkin, the web-like matter at the core that is always tossed out, which houses the seeds. It's a family favorite, and the recipe traces its origin to my great-grandmother who christened it with an equally bizarre Halloween-esque name: She called it 'Yaana Thalai' (which translates to elephant's head in Tamil) chutney. The reason why she called it that was apparently her grandkids (my dad included) would easily polish off a whole elephant head's worth in volume of the dish.

Crazy monikers aside, this is a standard favorite at home, eaten with hot plain rice or slathered on a warm roti (or even a slice of toast).

Some pumpkins have a better supply of the 'brain' than others. I find that cheese pumpkins and calabaza squashes have a meatier webbing that yields more of the key ingredient for the chutney. —Panfusine

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup webbing from the innards of a pumpkin
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 small onions, cut into eights
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon split, dehusked urad dal
  • 2 chiles de árbol, broken into bits (adjust to taste)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind pulp OR
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 pinch salt, to taste
  1. To harvest the pumpkin brains, simply quarter a smallish cheese pumpkin or calabaza and scoop out the central webbing. Using your fingers, remove all the seeds. Discard the seeds or use for something else.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the onion till it turns translucent. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions into a bowl. Add the pumpkin innards to the remaining oil and saute on medium-low heat until the webbing softens and almost turns into pulp.
  3. In another skillet, add a tablespoon of oil and add the urad dal and the broken bits of Arbol chile, toast until the dal turn golden brown and emits a nutty aroma. Add the drained garbanzo beans along with the curry leaves and saute for about 3-4 minutes, Stir in the coconut and shut off the heat (you want the coconut to be warmed up a bit but not toasted).
  4. Add the onions, pumpkin webbing, and the garbanzo/coconut mix in a food processor, add tamarind (or lime juice), and salt to taste and process on high until the pumpkin innards, onions, and the garbanzo beans have completely blended, Sample and adjust for salt. Add in the cilantro (feel free to substitute with chopped mint or dill if you prefer) and give it a whirl for a minute more until the mix is homogenized. Transfer to a bowl.
  5. Heat the remaining oil and add the mustard seeds when the oil becomes hot. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the mix to the chutney and stir in.
  6. Serve with hot plain rice and ghee, or roti. Alternatively, serve as a dip for chips.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • JessieV
  • Amanda Trayes
    Amanda Trayes
  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
  • Panfusine
A biomedical engineer/ neuroscientist by training, currently a mommy blogger on a quest for all things food - Indian Palate, Global perspective!

7 Reviews

JessieV October 26, 2016
Definitely making this for a Halloween party on Monday - thanks!
Amanda T. October 26, 2016
Urad dal? Arbol chiles? Curry leaves? Tamarind pulp? Who has these ingredients lying around? I wouldn't know where to begin to find them.
Panfusine October 26, 2016
You can absolutely make your own variation w/o any of these ingredients , cayenne chile powder in lieu of arbol chiles, Lemon/lime juice for Tamarind, and a tablespoon of split lentils will work equally well in place of the urad dal when its toasted.
Rads October 16, 2016
Wow, what a wonderful way of using the webbing which is otherwise discarded. Thank you panfusine. You are the best!
Panfusine October 18, 2016
Thanks Rads, will plan on making this the next time we catch up!
Annada R. October 16, 2016
This chutney sounds awesome. Thank you
Panfusine October 18, 2016
Thanks so much Annada Rathi!