Tinda, Karela, lauki, tori, kundru, parwal….your local sabziwallah will read out these names with pride, these are the freshest summer vegetables that have arrived on our vegetable carts. It is peak summer, and the desi gourds are here to save the day. However, most of us don’t readily cook or eat these gourds. Karela is too bitter, lauki is bland, tori looks like watery mush…these are a few excuses thrown around. But these summer beauties, their emerald green hues have the perfect antidote to the sweltering heat. Our grandmothers thankfully knew better and forced us to eat the seasonal vegetables, we need to give them a chance as well. Here are a few recipes where the humble gourds take on flavourful avataars. Pointed gourd/Parwal Bhapa Potol (Steamed Parwal sabzi)
This pointed gourd dish is a staple in a Bengali kitchen. The dash of mustard oil and ground poppy seed paste elevates the dish.
Pointed gourd 4-6 pieces, (cleaned and peeled)
Ingredients Poppy seeds 2 tablespoons (soak the seeds in warm water for half hour) Mustard oil – 2 tablespoons Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp Green chillies – 2 Salt – a pinch
Sugar – 1 tsp
Wash the peeled gourd pieces and slit them halfway lengthwise. Take a deep pan with water, bring to a boil and place the slit gourd pieces in the water. Cover and let it cook for 5 mins. Grind the soaked poppy seeds along with the slit green chillies. Blend till it is a smooth paste, you can add a bit of water to get the desired consistency. In a deep pan, heat the mustard oil, add the poppy-chilli paste, salt, turmeric, slit green chillies and sugar. Let it mix well, add the parboiled gourd pieces and let mix well with the gravy in the pan. Cover and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with steam rice.
Bottle gourd/lauki Kashmiri lauki yakhni (Bottle gourd in a yoghurt gravy)
Fennel, dried ginger and dahi makes a case for a flavourful lauki gravy.
Ingredients: 500 gm lauki, peeled and cut into roundels / 1.5 cup dahi (whisked) 4 tsp fennel seed powder (saunf) 1 tsp dried ginger powder (sonth) 7 tbsp mustard oil ½ tsp cumin seeds ½ tsp coriander powder 3 green chillies slit
Heat mustard oil and shallow fry the lauki roundels. Let them get light brown in colour. When done remove and blot the excess oil. In another pan, take a tablespoon of mustard oil, heat it and add the cumin, coriander powder, slit chillies, fennel powder. Mix well. You can add a teaspoon of water to prevent the powders from burning, and to bring down the temperature of the tempering. To this then add the whisked curd, and mix well. Let it simmer for over a minute. Add salt and tip in the fried gourd. Cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes. You add water to get the desired gravy consistency. Serve with rice.
Ash gourd/Petha Kumbalanga Puliserry (Ash gourd in a coconut-yoghurt curry)
This light, coconut-yoghurt preparation is a vegetarian lunch staple in Kerala. The cooling ash gourd pieces in a tangy, sweet gravy are the perfect salve for your palate on a hot summer’s day.
Ingredients: 300 gm ash gourd (washed, peeled and cut into cubes) 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp salt 1 cup yoghurt ½ cup grated coconut 1 tsp cumin seeds 2 green chillies 2 tbsp raw rice (soaked for 15 mins) 1 tablespoon coconut oil 1 sprig of curry leaves 1 tsp fenugreek seeds 1 tsp mustard seeds 2 whole dried red chillies
1 tsp salt
Take a pan with 2-3 cups of water, add the ash gourd pieces, a pinch of salt and turmeric and bring it to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Do not let the pieces get too soft. In the meanwhile, blend the freshly grated coconut, green chillies and cumin to a smooth paste, and keep aside. When the ash gourd pieces are soft, add the ground coconut-chilli paste to the mixture. Then tip in a cup of whisked yoghurt and stir well. For the tempering, heat coconut oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and let them splutter. Add in the whole red chillies and curry leaves. Add this crackling ensemble to the simmering ash gourd gravy. Mix well. This gravy goes well with steamed rice.
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Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.