Happy New Year everyone. What a strange old year it’s been already and we are only a couple of weeks in. Here in the UK we are on national lockdown so we are all hunkering down and mainly staying confined within the four walls of our homes, with fleeting escapes of freedom with exercising and grocery shopping. A 5km run has never been so thrilling! I was picking up some spices for my zoom classes this morning (I’m sending them to folks in the UK who join my zoom class) and saw some dudhi – also known as lauki, calabash or bottle gourds – for sale and thought it would be good to buy a couple so that I could (a) tell you more about them and (b) show you a fab recipe that you will love.
Whilst I realise that unless you live near an Asian grocer you are not going to be able to get hold of these vegetables, the good news is that you can replace them with marrow or courgette which will work equally well. They are not dissimilar to a small, thinner marrow, with a light green smooth skin and white flesh. When harvested young they are a perfect vegetable to eat. They are primarily grown however for their fruit, which when dried forms a woody hollow vessel that can be used as a container for food and water but also as fishing floats, musical instruments and even clothing. It is a native of Africa but recent DNA research suggests that it was “domesticated three times: in Asia, at least 10,000 years ago; in Central America, about 10,000 years ago; and in Africa, about 4,000 years ago”. A cool fact that might appeal to you, is that this vegetable grows on a plant that has large white flowers that only open up at night.
Similar to a marrow or courgette the bottle gourd works really well in dal. In Bengal, where my husbands family are from, they sometimes serve it with prawns to make a fantastic curry. Today though, I thought I would show you a curry, which uses them as the star ingredient.
Bottle Gourd Curry (replace with marrow or courgette)
500g bottle gourd, skin removed and the flesh cut into bit sized cubes or use marrow or courgette (you can keep the skin on the courgette)
2 tbsp sunflower/rapeseed oil
2 dried red chillies
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Indian bay leaf, broken in two (called tej patta)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 inch of ginger, finely grated (or 1 tsp ginger paste)
3 garlic cloves, grated (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
2 large tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground Kashmiri chilli
- First prepare the bottle gourd (marrow or courgette) and place to one side.
- Heat a large deep pan and add the oil.
- When it is hot add the dried chillies, Indian bay leaf, asafoetida and cumin seeds which will begin to sizzle.
- After 20 seconds, add the onion and salt and let the onion soften completely and begin to bronze – between 6-8 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger.
- Stir in the garlic and ginger so that raw smell dissipates, which takes a few minutes.
- Next add the chopped tomatoes and stir into the onion. Add the ground spices and leave to simmer with a lid on for 5 minutes. The tomato should have softened considerably.
- Add the bottle gourd (marrow or courgette) and then add the water. Simmer on a medium heat for 20 minutes. A lot of the water will have soaked up leaving a thick spiced tomato coating over the gourd.
I ate mine on its own with a squeeze of lemon, but you could also have some rice on the side or a chapati, luchi or naan bread. It makes a delicious vegan lunch or supper.
Let me know how you get on if you make it.
Food is definitely a way to keep us all uplifted and glowing through these surreal times, I hope you agree.