Bottle gourd, also known as opo squash. lauki, or, doodhi, is used extensively in Indian cooking. It’s origins however are in North Africa and the Mediterranean. The gourd spread with trade and is now used extensively across Asia and India. This squash is mild flavored and used most commonly in dal, to make muthiyas/dumplings and as a halwa/sweet. This recipe stood out to me because the bottle gourd is made into a flavorful kofte/kebab that is drenched in a rich tomato based gravy. The combination of the mildly spiced kofte with the tangy rich sauce was delightful. ‘This recipe is a simplified version from one of India’s oldest celebrity chefs, Tarla Dalal. She has published numerous excellent vegetarian cookbooks over the decades covering almost every regional vegetarian cuisine in India. This recipe is from her website, it is filled with delicious recipes from the easy to extremely complex recipes like this one.
For The Koftas 1 cup bottle gourd (doodhi/lauki), grated 1/2 cup rice flour 3 chopped green chillies, or to taste 1 teaspoon garam masala 1 tablespoon coriander powder 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder Salt to taste 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 egg, optional Oil for sautéing For The Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons coconut oil 4 cloves
1 bay leaf 4 peppercorns
1 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste 2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder A pinch asafoetida 2 cups chopped tomatoes 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup coconut milk 1/4 cup cream 1/4 cup water Salt to taste 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
For the gravy
Heat the oil in a pot and add the bay leaf, pepper corns, and cloves and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the ground spices and saute for 30 more seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer till the tomatoes break down and the oil separates, about 10-12 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, sugar and salt, mix well and simmer gently (do not boil) for an additional 10-15 minutes till the coconut milk has cooked and integrated into the sauce. Do not boil the sauce as it may split. You will see the sauce develop a sheen on the surface when it is ready. Add the cream, stir in and continue to stir till the cream is well blended. Set aside on a gentle simmer till ready to serve.
For the koftas
Add little salt to the grated gourd and keep aside for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out the water completely.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, hands are best, to make a kofte that holds together well. Make small and thin koftes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. I usually make a teaspoon sized small kofte and flash fry it as a taster. Adjust salt, chilli and other spices as needed.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and shallow sauté on medium to low heat till the koftes turn golden brown and the insides are cooked. Set aside.
You can now serve this dish in either of two ways: Heat the gravy till hot, do not boil. Layer the gravy in a bowl or shallow dish. Arrange the koftes over the gravy in a decorative pattern. Serve topped with minced cilantro and/or whole green chilies.
Alternatively, you can immerse the koftes in the gravy and heat gently till hot. Stir gently to mix but not break the koftes. Serve in a bowl topped with minced cilantro and/or whole green chilies.