Bottle Gourd Daal

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I really wanted to name it as K-25 Daal in the memory of house in Delhi where I once stayed as a paying guest. My first abode away from home, the tiny room in the house numbered K-25 in Hauz Khas Enclave of Delhi brought me in company of new people, each bringing in different food habits and cultures. Daal, basically a stew of lentils or pigeon peas is a pan-South Asian dish. Cooked in innumerable homes and kitchens, it has equally innumerable variations, based on the other  ingredients, spices, and cooking methods employed.

This particular version, which uses bottle gourd (called lauki in Hindi and doodhi in my native tongue Marathi) I picked from my roommate who hailed from Kanpur. In the harsh summers of Delhi (and in general, of entire north India), my usual favorites of vegetables like French beans and greens would be quite deplorable in the vegetable market. A variety of squashes or gourds would be the only few options left that would not only survive the summer but also come relatively cheap for someone like me- a student on a tight budget. So learning to use this vegetable with toor daal (split pigeon pea) came quite as a boon. A simple recipe, with few ingredients (with several alternatives to number of those as you would notice later), that would go perfectly with rice and/ or flat breads.

BOTTLE GOURD DAAL/ LAUKI DAAL/ K-25 DAAL!

Ingredients:

1.5 cup of toor/ split pigeon pea daal (Do you want to replace this with red lentils or even moog daal? Go ahead!)

1 tomato

1 onion

1 medium sized bottle gourd (Don’t have bottle gourd? You can use any other thing from the gourd/ squash family. I have even used bitter gourd, which actually gives a nice slightly bitter taste.)

1-2 tbspoon oil

2-6 cloves of garlic

1-2 green chillies

1-2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

a pinch of asafoetida (It is kind of optional but I would suggest it for its digestion aid qualities with daals)

1-2 tbspoons of powdered coriander powder (optional)

7-8 curry leaves (if you get those! Thankfully they store well in fridge and give full flavor and aroma even when they are dry. Just make sure that the leaves are not wet)

Salt to taste

2 cups of water

Method:

  1. Wash and soak daal for 30 minutes (important step,  especially if you do not have a pressure cooker).
  2. Meanwhile, chop onion, tomato, bottle gourd. Thinly slice chillies and garlic.
  3. Heat oil in pot/ pressure cooker  pan.
  4. Add cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, garlic, chillies, curry leaves, turmeric powder. Let everything splutter and release their aromas. Just take care not to let it burn.
  5. Add chopped onions and gourd over the above tadka and mix properly to coat everything evenly.
  6. Once onions start turning translucent, mix in tomatoes.
  7. Let everything cook till tomatoes lose their firmness and  then add daal.
  8. Adjust salt and add water.
  9. Cook till the daal is mushy and gourd is pulpy. Quicker feat if you have pressure cooker. With lidded pot, it would probably take 20-30 minutes.

As I mentioned before, it can be enjoyed it with both rice and flatbread. Today my pick was brown rice that was flavored with dried fenugreek leaves and cumin. Just throw in those things along with a dash of olive oil in your cooker/ pot while the rice is cooking. There have been times when I had this as a one-pot meal. Really, it works in so many ways… Its magic lies just in a few unassuming ingredients that simmer together in a pot.

 

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