Recently when I was reading this, I realized just how well we, my daughter and I, fit into the foodie mom-picky eater child paradox that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I often resort to sneaking vegetables and fruits, vegetables mostly, so that my almost-five-year-old gets her nutrition while fussing less about new food she’s not comfortable eating or even touching.
To accomplish that, many times I turn to my partner of trust, not Mr. K in this case, but hearty Parathas. Many vegetables and leafy greens easily make it through the lunch box time without being rejected or cared less for, when Parathas and dal are on the lunch menu, one of the very few lunches guaranteed to be eaten up by my discerning little one. This paratha happened to me on one of those kind of days that I wanted to add some novelty in her run of the mill paratha meal.
I can say with confidence that with all of its buttery goodness, this will be one of the softer parathas you would have ever made. The flavors are clean and ingredients are simple. Roasting intensifies the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe calls for no water at all as the roasted squash pulp contains sufficient moisture to bind with the whole wheat flour.
And the delicate flavor of Kalonji (pronounced kuh-lawn-gee) is to die for. I fell in love with it when I first began cooking with Paanch phoron, the five spices where Kalonji is one of the star ingredients. Later on, I borrowed the idea of making parathas sprinkled with Kalonji from an Indian cookbook. That is also the time when my respect for cookbooks went up and I converted. Unfortunately, I can hardly recall the title or the author.
Call them by any name – black seeds, black caraway seeds, onion seeds or nigella seeds, but do not mix them up with Kala jeera or black cumin. They are not. The seeds may closely resemble black sesame seeds in size, color and shape, but they can be identified by their obtuse prism like shape with clear edges. Kalonji come with a strong earthy smell, a crunchy bite and a distant faint lemony bitter aftertaste. Apparently, the seeds have extensive medicinal uses both as an herb and oil.
Pair them with any wholesome side or dal and these buttery soft Parathas make for a good meal. We relished them with a mixed vegetable side in poppy seeds and dried coconut gravy.
How do you like to use Kalonji in your cooking?
Roasted Butternut Squash and Kalonji Paratha Recipe
makes 8-10 parathas
Things you’ll need:
1 small organic butternut squash
1-1/2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour or Atta + 1/4 cup more for dusting
1 tbsp kalonji / Nigella seeds (aka black caraway seeds or onion seeds)
salt to taste
oil for pan roasting
baking tray and aluminium foil
rolling-pin and board (prefer wood, steel or stone)
How it’s done:
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Wash, towel dry and cut the butternut squash in half. scrape out the seeds and pith with a spoon or peeler tip.
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and place the squash halves face down on the sheet with space in between them. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin is browned (also juices start running).
Remove from the oven and wrap the foil to cover to let it cook in its own steam for 10 mins. Unwrap, let cool and scoop out all the pulp into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt and kalonji and mix well. Add whole wheat flour little at a time mixing it with squash pulp until all the flour is incorporated. Add more flour if required until a pliable non-sticky dough is formed. Knead for a couple of mins, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 15 mins before making parathas. Resting makes the dough absorb all the moisture and become softer.
If not for roasting, alternatively, either steam the squash halves or cook in just enough boiling water until soft and follow the remaining steps. This method needs more flour as the water content is more. Or, simply stir fry with a drizzle of oil until soft, purée and use.
Knead the resting dough again for a few mins. Pull a small portion of dough, the size of a small lemon and roll it into a ball. Dust this dough ball with dry flour on both sides and roll out flat into a small circle with a rolling-pin. Fold into quarter, dust and roll out again to a triangle shape. Roast on a heated griddle or ‘tava’ on medium-high heat until brown spots appear on both the sides. Drizzle a few drops of oil on either sides. Remove parathas and keep in a covered container to preserve softness. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Serve hot with a drizzle of ghee with a side of your choice and yogurt on the side.
This recipe works equally well with pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Also, white s sesame seed and/or kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) can be used with great success in case you don’t ve kalonji on hand.
You can even spice it up with jeera powder or ground cumin, red chilli powder, black pepper as required.
Though I have used a small squash, the best ones to buy are those that are big and heavy for their size.
Make sure that the griddle or tawa is hot enough before pan roasting parathas. If the heat is very high or very low, parathas end up becoming burnt or hard.
Refrigerate remaining dough and thaw on the counter before making parathas again.