Saturday, March 28, 2009

The lau of Bengali food

They came, they wrote, they vanished. That is the story of many a blogger. Understandably so, as most of us don't blog for a living, but do it as a creative outlet during our spare time. In my case too, as other things took over, the blog had to take a back seat, putting me dangerously into that vanishing zone, even though I have thought about hauling myself back several times.

Recently, a blogger who often writes lovely comments here said that the squash with Bengali seasoning is now her most favorite way to cook butternut squash, and that she particularly loves the flavor of kalonji. That reminded me of this bottle gourd sabji I make, which has kalonji (also called Nigella) as the predominant flavor.

The other ingredient that is predominant here is mustard oil, which is an essential flavor of several Indian regional cuisines. Although it is not one I grew up with, I have taken to it over the last few years, and really enjoy it in some dishes. Mustard oil is not a wimpy sort of oil and holds its own particularly well. Naturally, it has no substitutes. I even know of mustard oil devotees who can compare and discuss brands, types, and their qualities in great depth. I usually use half mustard and half light olive oil in this dish, but feel free to use all mustard oil.

Bottle gourd is called dudhi in Marathi, lauki in Hindi, and lau in Bengali, which explains the cheesy post title. I find it in my local farmers' markets from spring through late summer, but I have seen it in Indian grocery stores almost all year round. This recipe comes via a full Bengali friend, and I am transcribing it here with his permission. I prefer to have it with soft rotis but it is equally wonderful with plain rice and dal. It also fits into my on going theme of favoring dishes that use only a few ingredients, and in this case they all just pull together, almost unexpectedly. For lack of a better title, I am calling it "Bengali Lau".

Lauki/Bottle Gourd with kalonji (Nigella)

Bengali Lau

Ingredients

1 medium sized bottle-gourd, usually 400-500gm
2 Tablespoons mustard oil (or a mix of mustard and olive oil)
1 teaspoon kalonji (nigella)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 small green chilies, chopped fine
salt to taste
a small handful of grated fresh coconut
a few sprigs of cilantro, chopped fine

Method

Peel and de-seed the bottle gourd, and chop it into thin strips about an inch long, roughly like short and thick matchsticks.

In a large kadhai or wok, heat the oil, and add the kalonji. Unlike mustard or cumin seeds, these do not pop, but they release a wonderful aroma when heated, usually in a few seconds. As soon as that happens, add the chopped bottle gourd, turmeric, and green chili. Saute everything quickly, then turn down the heat. Add a little salt, and let the bottle gourd cook until tender, on medium high heat. Place a lid on the pan if required. This usually takes me 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the slices, and total quantity. When done, the gourd should be fully cooked, and there will be some oil at the bottom of the pan as a result of the released moisture.

Add a little salt at the end, the coconut, and chopped cilantro, and stir once together.

Lauki/Bottle Gourd with kalonji, rotis

23 comments:

प्रिया said...

Oh, thank you for the lovely recipe! I also favor cooking with fewer ingredients while maximizing the flavors. Former due to laziness, later coz of love for food :) I will make this as soon as I get dudhi.

Anjali said...

Hi ET good to see u back. Doodhi is not one of my favorite dishes but I guess with Kalonji it must be tasting good.

Mints! said...

Wow! I am sure going to try this out. dudhi is one of my least favorite sabji and my mom has tried various ways to get me hooked on this all in vein ;)

lets hope this does the trick.

Home Cooked Oriya Food said...

Finally back! I love your site and make the awesome cup cakes from your site all the time! They are really awesome...

A_and_N said...

Oh I love your blog and keep checking for updates. Boy, was I glad today :)

I've nver tried mustard oil, and I so should! Does it have a strong flavor?

sra said...

Hey ET, I was thinking of you just yesterday. I am making much more of an effort with bottlegourd nowadays, I try and dress it up as much as I can because the simple stir-fry we make at home - its appeal has begun to pall. Have often thought about adding nigella to it.

ms said...

Hi ET,
I think sporadic posts are quite okay, It makes the next post that much more anticipated :) I like the simple and interesting spicing on this bottlegourd sabji,
best,
ms

Poornima said...

Good to see you back.Always enjoyed trying out your recipes.Thanks for all of them.

Suganya said...

There you are. Welcome back :)

shammi said...

Ask me if I'm glad to see you back! Go on, ask! :) I'm not glad, I'm THRILLED! Nice to check your blog and find a new recipe on it, believe me :) One I'm going to try... but do I have to add the coconut? I'll taste-try and see...

Divya Vikram said...

Welcome back. Great recipe..

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Cynthia said...

It is lovely to see you.

Bottlegourd (we call it squash) is now in season so I think I will try this.

DEESHA said...

I love dudhi & love love kallonji .. nice dish

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your beautiful site! Love your stories, recipes/methods, photos.

You don't have a bio listed -- do you? Would love to know who you are and your background.

I look forward to reading more entries. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I recently stumbled upon your blog and I'm so glad I did. I've been reading your archives and love your recipes and the write-up, have added many of them to my must-try list.

Best wishes,
Mamatha

प्रिया said...

ET, I made this dudhi a couple of times in the past two weeks and everybody at home (in India) loved it :) It was new learning for my mom too. All of them relished the flavor of kalonji. Thank you so much!

Saee Koranne-Khandekar said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your blog when searching for write-ups on Ruchira. Lovely, lovely blog you have here. And great pictures, too! I can't make up my mind on which recipe I should try first. :) You're bookmarked!

Home Cooked Oriya Food said...

HI ET, thanks for dropping. I absolutely adore your writing style - well you inspired me to start my blog... Need I say more ?
Wish you would write more often, even if you don't post recipes... I like the way you tell your story...
Will be watching for more of your posts when you get time....

Home Cooked Oriya Food said...

HI ET, thanks for dropping. I absolutely adore your writing style - well you inspired me to start my blog... Need I say more ?
Wish you would write more often, even if you don't post recipes... I like the way you tell your story...
Will be watching for more of your posts when you get time....

Farah said...

Hi there u bottlegourd looks absolutely delicious.. m going to make it sooonnnnnnnnnn...Can i request u one thing ..if u remember u mention in one of ur corn post that u have corn+palak methi ki sabzi.. can u plz post it plz plz..i just love this combination + i dont find any good authentic recipe on the net...plz if u can post it....or if u say so i can give my email..let me know plz.. thx for sharing ur goodness i mean ur recipes...take care bye...

Cynthia said...

Just in case you are reading your blog :) it is 2 years later and I finally made the cherry cobbler with some adjustments and it was outstanding! Thank you. Will blog about it this Saturday and link back to you.

evolvingtastes said...

A big hello to all of you who stopped by with your comments. Apologies for not responding earlier as I had been swamped with work. But I have been reading each and every comment and appreciate each of them more than you know! Your words of encouragement are truly heart warming.

Somoo, you are making me blush, really.

Farah, that corn-palak-methi? Yeah, its been a long time, but I can try looking it up for you somewhere in my notes. Not sure if I would have time to make it, take pictures and post about it soon, but send me an email, no problem. I will try to respond to you.

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