Monday, June 22, 2020

Lau Ghonto with Bori and Lau Chingri

BottleGourd with Bori and BottleGourd with Shrimp...

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto Bori diye | Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto is a popular Bengali vegetarian dish for the summer months made with Bottlegourd that has been chopped fine and garnished with fried Bori. There is also a non-veg version of this dish, Lau Chingri, where fried shrimp is mixed with the dish.

This post was first done in 2008 when I was pregnant with LilSis. Given that my pregnancies were never an easy affair, I don't know how I made a Lau Ghonto and posted a recipe then. The Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.
I have been eating real simple these days, simple food not laced with too many rich spices or garlic and onion seems to have become my favorite. It is still spring here but my food cravings are like those served in my home during the hot summer months.
Summer veggies like Lau(Bengali)/Lauki(Hindi)/Bottle gourd, Parwal, Green mangoes have caught my fancy. These veggies prepared with simple spices and no onion or garlic and a light fish curry is what is staple food, in most Bengali homes in the Gangetic Plains where summer is hot and humid.

Green View from my Kitchen

Is it the green all around that makes me long for these veggies ? Before the days of air conditioned grocery stores and easy availability of exotic veggies, vegetables in the local markets were seasonal in India. So while winter was colored with deep red beet-root, orange carrots and rich red tomatoes, summer was green with deep green striped parwal, mellowed green bottle gourd, vivid rich green of cucumber and smooth green of raw mangoes.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi
Chopped Lau/Bottlegourd

The tender lau or bottle gourd with its soothing green skin soothes the eyes in harsh summer and because of its high water content has a cooling effect and so is one of the preferred veggies in the summer months.
According to ayurveda, the cooked bottlegourd is cooling, diuretic, sedative and anti­bilious(corrects secretion of bile). It gives a feeling of relaxation after eating it. It is rich in essential minerals and fibre.

Lau Ghonto Bori diye, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Lau Ghonto

I am sharing this veggie and the dish with Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska who is hosting WHB, originated by Kalyn, this week

The bottle gourd was used in several different kinds of dishes in my home ranging from the dal, the lau-ghonto which I think was made with milk and usually white in color, another lau-ghonto with fish head, the lau ghonto with bori where the dish was garnished with fried moong dal vadis, the lau-chingri where the shrimp was mixed with the dish to dress up the simple homely dish.

The recipe of Lau Bori and Lau Chingri here is as my Ma made it.

Recipe and photos updated on June 22, 2020.

Lau Ghonto with Bori


Lauki/Bottlegourd ~ 3 cups. Peeled and chopped in small pieces. You need to cut the bottlegourd in really small & thin pieces, large chunks are a NO NO.
Tomato ~1 medium finely chopped in small pieces
Green Chilli ~ 3-4 slit through the middle. I use hot Indian Geen Chillies
Ginger - 1" piece

For Tempering

Bay Leaves ~ 2 small
Cinnamon Stick ~ 1” stick
Whole Jeera/Cumin seeds ~ ½ tsp

Wet Masala Paste

Cumin seeds - 1.5 tsp Cumin seeds
Ginger - 1" ginger chopped ~ 1 Tbsp

With a sprinkle of water make a paste of cumin and ginger in a mortar-pestle.

Note: If you cannot make a fresh paste like as I said, then grate the ginger and mix with 1 tsp of Cumin powder to make a paste

Dry Spice powders

Red Chilli Powder ~ 1/2 tsp or according to your spice level. I go with the green hot chillies and do not use any chilli powder.
Turmeric Powder ~ about 1 tsp

Sugar ~ 1/2 tsp or none if you don’t like it sweet
Salt ~ to taste

For garnish

Bori ~ 1/4th Cup of Moong Dal Bori fried and crumbled. If you do not have any Bori, you might skip it. The Bengali Vadis are known as Boris and are small sun dried cones of lentil paste, the shapes are like Hershey's Kisses. Here is a recipe of boris made of Urad Dal. These boris are fried and then added to the dish.
Coriander Leaves ~ a fistful finely chopped

How I Did It

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan.

Fry the Bori/Vadi till it is a nice warm rich brown. Remove and keep aside

Temper the oil with Bay leaf, Cinnamon Stick and Whole Cumin seeds
When the cumin starts sputtering add the finely chopped tomato and green chillies.
Sauté till the tomatoes are soft and mushy with no raw smell.

Add the wet masala paste of ginger-cumin. Saute the masala for 2 minutes. Sprinkle some water if necessary

Add the chopped bottle gourd and mix with the spices. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Add Turmeric powder, salt and mix well

Once you have mixed it nicely, cover and cook. Intermittently remove the cover and give it a good stir. You don’t need to add water as bottle gourd releases water on cooking. If the bottlegourd is dried up or not that fresh you may need to add little water while cooking.

When the bottlegourd/lau is fully cooked, add sugar and cook for a minute. The water should have dried up by now and the result would be a dish with no gravy but moist.

Now crumble the fried bori on top
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves

Lau Chingri aka Bottle Gourd with Shrimp

Lau Chingri, Lau Ghonto, Bottlegourd Sabzi with Vadi

Everything is same as the Lau-Bori recipe. Except for the Bori you need about ½ cup of shrimp. Wash the shrimp and mix with a little turmeric and salt and let it marinade for 30 minutes. Fry them to a light yellow and remove and keep aside. Cook Bottlegourd exactly as above. Instead of the bori, mix the shrimp with the bottlegourd at the second last step. Sauté for a minute and you are done.

Other recipes of similar Bengali Lau er Tarkari:

Tetor Dal with BitterGourd and BottleGourd

Trivia: Ektara the most ancient form of string instrument found in the Eastern parts of India, is constructed out of a half of a dried gourd shell serving as the sound-box, with a metal string running right through the middle of the shell. The Ektara was used by the Bauls of Bengal for their folk singing

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna 

Chanar Dalna is a typical niramish (vegetarian) Bengali dish where homemade paneer balls or koftas are fried and cooked in a lightly spiced, subtly sweet gravy with potatoes. I have shared my Mother's recipe of Chanar Dalna in this post which is cooked with a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger.

Every Friday, as far along as I can remember, my Mother kept a fast and therefore did not cook any meat or fish on that day. She herself ate a single one-pot meal of rice and vegetables cooked together with some ghee and salt. But for some reason unknown to me, she felt that one day of not having any protein would render us weak and feeble. Trust me, there was not a sign in my health to make her believe such. But she steadfastly did. And according to Bengalis that protein can never ever come from a "dal" or lentils. It has to be meat, eggs or if those failed then dairy!

Chanar Dalna, Chhanar Dalna, Bengali Paneer Curry, Bengali cottage cheese
Fresh chana simmering in gravy

So, my Mother made Chana or as we say Chhana aka cottage cheese. Diligently. Week after week. She boiled whole milk and squeezed lime juice in it until the milk had a rent and tore apart to form blobs of white cotton like milk solids suspended in a greenish whey. She then drained the whey out on a piece of starched white cloth, usually cut from one of one of her old saris and washed and dried to act as a cheesecloth. That paneer or chhana then rested under the weight of our black stone nora until all the water was squeezed out. She sometimes tried to feed me that raw chana with sugar sprinkled on it, saying it was good for me, but I hated it so very much that she soon gave up that idea.

Instead, she made flat disc shapes from that chhana, shallow fried them golden brown in oil and dunked them in a lightly spices sweetish gravy with potatoes and spice blend.The gravy would always be a thin one, spiced with freshly made paste of cumin and ginger. That niramish chanar dalna with those pillowy soft balls of cottage cheese was a much loved dish from my childhood. If that was how I was supposed to get my protein fix, I was all for it!

Chanar Dalna | Chhanar Dalna - Bengali Style Paneer Curry

Niramish Chanar Dalna - Bengali Style homemade paneer curry

And so Chanar Dalna stayed on as a staple in our home on most Fridays. It would also pop up twice or sometimes thrice in the course of the week but if it was Friday then it was almost sure that Chanar Dalna was on the menu.

I usually make a chanar dalna with store bought paneer as that is easier and quicker. Also, my kids like that paneer a lot, we get really a very good Nanak paneer which is soft and delicious. However I have to agree that they are not the same thing. The Chanar Dalna that my Mother made, with homemade chana or homemade cottage cheese is definitely a dish that Bengalis will find more superiors.

Cumin-Ginger-Green Chilli paste
Today, I re-created the same dish with chana or paneer made at home. I wanted to get the exact flavor of my childhood dish and so instead of using cumin powder, I made a fresh ground paste of cumin and ginger  in my mortar, the quintessential jeere-ada baata, and used that paste as the masala for this dish. I must say that the fresh ground paste played an important role to enhance the flavor of this light curry. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtly sweet Chanar Dalna with rice for dinner today.

The kids thought that there was no need to go the extra mile of making chhana at home!! But sometimes you do things, for your own happiness, and that's fine.

It wasn't a difficult dish to cook, maybe takes bit more time to make. If you are running short of time, you can make the chhana a day ahead and then do the gravy the next, that might make the process easier. Also for an easier version of the dish with store bough Paneer follow my other Chhanar Dalna Recipe.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Kerala Style Egg Roast | Kerala Egg Curry

Kerala Egg Roast, Kerala Egg Curry

Kerala Style Egg Roast | Kerala Egg Curry

This Nadan egg Roast or Kerala homestyle egg curry is a very simple egg curry bursting with flavors. It is a lot like the Bengali Dim Kosha with different spices. I will not say this is the traditional recipe but this is close to what I have tasted.

Many years ago when I lived in Bangalore, was when I first got introduced to the full plethora of South Indian cuisines.

Those were the pre, pre social media days. There were no smart phones and so no photos of food were ever shared with anyone and hence we knew little beyond local food. You ate mostly local and occasionally indulged in the two popular non-local cuisine -Chinese and South Indian. Growing up in small town Bengal, the only South Indian food we knew was Dosa and Idli which the tan-tan-dosawala would make expertly on his black griddle as he went around the shady lanes of our neighborhood at dusk. That along with Sambhar and coconut chutney which my Mother stored in steel tiffin carrier boxes from the dosawala would be an unexpected weekday treat.

Later my experimental Mother would make dosa batter in her Sumeet Mixer and make dosas, which were never as thin and crisp as the dosa walas. However with the fermented batter she would then make Utthapam studded with onion and green chillies and those were excellent. She also made Upma in her own way and called it Nonta Suji. That is where my culinary knowledge ended and that was what we thought everyone living in the south of vindhyas ate -- Dosa, Idli, Sambhar, Uttapam and Upma.

Once I moved to Bangalore, I was introduced to a variety of South Indian cuisines courtesy of the office cafeteria and the various PG aunties I boarded with. What surprise that they never really served dosa at lunch and the vegetarian fare at the office cafeteria in ISRO was mostly boring consisting of rice or a veg pualo, rasam, sambhar, some vegetable (which I never enjoyed) and then yogurt.

The PG aunties had more interesting food. One of them was a Kannada Muslim and she often made Hyderabadi Biryani in a big dekchi which she served in ample amounts with raita. Of all the PG homes I stayed in, the one I loved most was a beautiful home in Indiranagar owned by an elderly Coorgi lady. She was then in her 60's, much older than my mother then, and lived in that house with a little granddaughter and couple of helps. Her family owned a coffee plantation in Coorg and the sons stayed at the plantation. The little girl went to one of Bangalore's popular convent schools and lived with her grandmother.

Oh, how I was in awe of that PG aunty. I admired her energy, her independence and her cozy home. And she had the most delicious dinners to offer, a lot of which was non-vegetarian. I was not at all interested in cooking those days and so I gladly ate what she cooked, praising them, the taste lingering in my memory now for 20 years.

Kerala Egg Roast, Kerala Egg Curry

Spices for Kerala Egg Curry 

She often made appams which she served with a Kerala stew or a Kerala egg curry. She never cooked them in coconut oil and probably added her own Coorgi style to the Kerala dishes, who is to tell, but they were delicious.

I often think of her and her dishes and yesterday searched for a Kerala Egg Curry or what they call a Kerala Egg Roast or Nadan Egg Roast. The problem with recipes these days is, you search for one thing and the ones that come on top are not the ones who are really authentic but ones with good SEO. I sieved through them and wasn't convinced with all the garam masala they were asking to add, I mean it was like our Bengali dim kosha, where was that distinct flavor that Aunty added coming from. If I closed my eyes and thought I could inhale some black peppercorns and maybe fennel.

So I followed Sailu's Kitchen recipe, one of the blogs I trust for South Indian recipes and then skipped the Garam masala powder. Instead I added freshly ground Coriander powder, Fennel powder and Black Pepper powder. No coconut. Absolutely no coconut necessary.

As the egg curry cooked, I could smell the flavor that lingered around the cool dining room in Coorgi Aunty's house, or so I imagined.
A lot of memory rushed in, Aunty's little granddaughter singing "Amazing Grace" on some evenings; the "Chicken Curry For Soul" books I would love to read in my bedroom after dinner; her always tidy and clean kitchen which she wiped down every night and a lesson I took to heart; and a sadness at my younger software techie self who never took the time to learn how dishes were created and who got so busy to never get time to meet Aunty after moving out.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Pomfret Vindaloo | Pomfret Curry

I rarely buy bone-in fish pieces as the kids don't like them. But I do miss them. Recently one of my neighbors got some pomfret for me from the fish store and I was overjoyed

I wasn't sure what to make with them as the fish was already cut in steak pieces. I like to do a whole baked pomfret but this time I was swaying between a curry and bake. Then I asked the neighbor who got me the fish what she was planning to make. She is a Mangalorean and said she will just fry them with a red masala paste, which basically has red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder,  little garam masala and some vinegar.

That set the ball rolling.

Recently the husband-man had made a pork vindaloo which was fiery and delicious and I decided to use the same spice base. Following the same masala and recipe I made a pomfret curry which I will call a pomfret vindaloo. It was spicy and good. Even the fried pieces of pomfret with this masala paste was delicious.

Pomfret Vindaloo | Pomfret Curry

Pomfret Fish -- cut in steak size pieces. I had 6 pieces

For the Masala paste

Dried Kashmiri chile peppers -- 8
Cinnamon stick - 1"
Cumin seeds -- 1 tsp
Cloves - 4 whole
Whole black peppercorns - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder
White vinegar - 2 Tbsp
salt to taste

For Gravy

Onion - 1 whole chopped
Garlic -- 6 cloves minced, or more to taste
Fresh ginger root - 1"

Green Chilli peppers - 4 cut into strips
Vegetable oil -- 2 Tbsp
White Vinegar - about 1 Tbsp
Salt - to taste

Prep the masala

Make a dry powder with all spices under Masala Paste. Make a thick paste with the white vinegar and little water.

Marinate and Fry the fish

Now smear the fish pieces with this masala paste and keep aside for 30 mins.

Heat enough oil for shallow frying the fish.
Shallow fry the fish, approx. 3 mins on each side.

Note: I realized later that you can make this curry without frying the fish and adding the marinated fish to the curry and cooking it there too. You decide your choice.

Make the Gravy

Now we don't need this much oil for cooking the gravy. So we will remove most of it keeping only 1-2 Tbsp for cooking.

To the hot oil add the garlic and 2 green chilies. When you get the flavor of garlic then add the onion and ginger. Saute until onion is browned. Add the fish pieces and any remaining masala paste from marinade. Add a little water for gravy and bring gravy to simmer. Reduce heat and cook. Add salt to season.

Now stir in the remaining 2 Green Chilli and 1 Tbsp of vinegar. Cook uncovered until the gravy has thickened and oil rises to the surface. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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