Squash Bharta


Here is a little dish to welcome in the reluctant Spring in Toronto. In Pakistan, a vegetable which is cooked and mixed into yoghurt is often referred to as raita, but I find that when we are dealing with a thicker yoghurt dish, the term bharta is more fitting. I use squash marrow in this recipe – it is basically a sweeter and more robust type of zucchini, often found at Middle Eastern grocery stores. I ate a lot of this type of zucchini in Rome, too. I love having it with lavash or a few slices of toasted sourdough bread. Be sure to use full-fat yoghurt.

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Squash Bharta

Yield: 2
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • 3 + 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot sliced thin
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/8 tsp red chili powder
  • 500 g squash marrow
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 250 g Greek yoghurt or any other strained, thick yoghurt
  • 1/2 fennel bulb sliced, tough outer skin discarded (fronds reserved)
  • 1 pinch pul biber/Aleppo pepper or paprika for dusting on top in the end
  • *Bread – lavash pita, sourdough or any other bread you love to scoop this up with


  • Slice tough ends of the marrow and discard, then cut the marrow into half, lengthwise and then chop into half moon shapes. Set aside.
  • Place a large pan (I use , which is 30cm / 12in) on the stove on medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil, shallots, pinch sea salt, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and sliced marrow. The marrow will become soft after 7-10 minutes. You don’t want the marrow to completely disintegrate, so don’t let it overcook.
  • Turn the heat to high, add the minced garlic and let the marrow turn golden – it should look blistered and slightly charred. Make sure to flip the marrow slices so that both sides are bronzed/charred. If you want, you can add more olive oil if the marrow is sticking to the pan. Set aside and allow to cool.
  • Place a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat and add the remaining 3tbsp olive oil and sliced fennel. *Saute gently for 10-15 minutes till wilted and bronze around the edges.
  • Set fennel aside and allow to cool.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the marrow from the pan and transfer to a chopping board (you don’t want to use all the excess olive oil). With kitchen shears or a knife, finely chop the marrow.
  • Do the same with the fennel. Reserve two tablespoons of the fennel to add as a garnish.
  • Gently combine chopped marrow and fennel into yoghurt. Adjust taste for salt.
  • Adorn with the reserved fennel. Drizzle with your favourite olive oil, dust with pul biber (or paprika) and adorn with fennel fronds.
  • Enjoy with lots of warm bread.

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  1. Shayma – I could totally relate to your post having been born and brought up in Pakistan and now living in London. I was just like you, the dead were faceless people and just another statistic until the day my own father (an actor called Sultan Khan) was killed in his car in 1994 at the peak of the unrest. Yet even after moving to England I returned to Karachi each year – returned to meet my family, to enjoy the ability to just turn up to anyone’s house and feel it’s your own with the most amazing snacks and food, the resilience of a city where no matter what happens life goes on!

    1. Dear Sarah, I am so sorry for your loss. The resilience of the people is incredible. I also admire your strength to go back every year, even after everything you have been through – chapeau, Sarah! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my super-long piece; I appreciate it very much. All the best to you and yours.

  2. Dear Shayma, i was at the same location in Karachi a day earlier while being in Pakistan for work. I also somehow believed that these things will never happen to us. But then it hit hard when my father and brother were driving right behind the sri lankan cricket team bus when it was attacked in Lahore. Narrowly missed. I stood a kilometer away in Rawalpindi when Gen. Musharraf’s motorcade was attacked. Countless lost their life, just because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time on that day. I saw ambulances carrying body parts, something i will never forget. Me and my family passed over the bridge rigged with explosives targeting Gen.Musharaff’s motorcade 5 mins before it exploded. It was scary till sometime but then you pick yourself up and get on with your life. My father had forbidden my brothers to go to the mosque for Jummah prayers saying ” i will not come to pick up your pieces”. Its tragic how all this has changed us individually and as a nation. But really cant you see the resilience in our faces? Despite all this we all are tying so hard to make a difference and keep flying the flag? Dont give up! Being an expat Pakistani i feel each word you wrote today. But as a Pakistani i must also say giving up is not an option! Stay strong my friend! We will get through this! God has promised a dawn after every dark night! Thank you for the recipe. I am making biryani today 🙂

    1. Dear Ambreen, Thank you so much for reading my piece and for your thoughtful, heartfelt comment. It saddens me to read about what you have seen and how close you came to what could have been an unfortunate situation. May you always stay protected, my friend. Thanks for the lovely words and onwards we march, as they say! x s PS Biryani sounds perfectly comforting 🙂

  3. I feel the same difference between India and here. Although things are not that unstable in India but the value of human life is almost non-existent. A bus full of people were dead one day and the newspapers were covering it like it was a party and the next day everyone pretended as if nothing happened. A train ran off the track and several other people were dead. They remained as mere passengers or pedestrians or motorcyclists. I like the resilience but I would hope one day we will value human life more than we do now. Our resilience might be making the authorities reluctant to do something to protect the people. I don’t know. Just feel helpless being so far off from my parents and family. Every time I hear something bad happened in India, my heart skips a beat. I don’t believe in God, in destiny or fate….all I believe is there must be a saturation someday and people will get tired of doing bad things to each other in the name of God and religion. Stay strong.

  4. Hi Shayma, Thank you so much for writing this and for just doing what you do. There is a lot of beauty in what you write and do but we know there is ugly in the world too. Thanks for writing about this particular ugly heartbreak and confusion too, if only for the rest of us who don’t know how to express it.

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