Calabash, cala bash what a great word almost Batman like word. I also like the word Dudhi especially since that Friends episode with Chandler and dooody. Dudhi is a lovely delicate and versatile vegetable. It can be used to make shak, in a special Gujarati flat bread called thepla (look out for a recipe in future) or into another gujarati dish called Muthia which are a form of steamed dumpling. Today’s offering is a mix of dudhi with lentils called Chana Dal, a split bengal gram lentil that gives a creamy taste to the meal. The dal needs careful washing and soaking for a few hours so if you pressed for time, you can leave it out and just have the vegetable. This is a slow cook shak with a stew like consistency – all the liquid needed comes from the veg. Slow cooking vastly improves the flavour. If you aren’t adding the dal, then the dudhi cooks quite quickly.
I have only ever used the long light green version of dudhi but they also come in a round ball shape. Honestly, I’m not aware if there is any taste difference. It’s available in large supermarkets but if you can, try to buy it from a Asian store as I think they tend to be fresher and have a nicer taste. When selecting look for one which is smooth skinned and firm, but not too hard skinned (e.g. like a marrow) and without many blemishes. I usually squeeze the tip near the stalk to make sure it doesn’t give as that’s a sign of an old vegetable. Further down, I’ll show you how to prepare it for this recipe.
- 3 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
- 1tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 dried red chili (lal marcha)
- 2 bay leaves (tamal patra)
- 3 cloves garlic minced (lasun)
- 1 fresh green chili chopped finely
- 6 cloves (laving)
- 1 tsp salt (nimak)
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder (marcha)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin coriandere powder (dhana jeeru)
- 1 long dudhi chopped into 2 inch pieces (see below)
- 5 tbs drained chana dal
- 7-8 curry leaves (limbra)
- 2 mangosteen (kokum). These give a sourness to the dal which is different from lemon juice. Almost a hint of tamarind. If you don’t have any, don’t worry as lemon juice does fine.
- 2 vine tomatoes diced finely
- Lemon juice to taste
- Coriander to garnish
- Measure out the dal into a bowl. Check there are no stones in there. Then wash in about 4 changes of cold water. Now they need to be soaked for 2- 3 hours in about a pint of water. Cover with a plate and set aside
- After a few hours, discard the soaking water, thoroughly rinse the dal and set aside ready to cook.
- Wash the dudhi then chop off the stalk and the other end. You may see an amber liquid oozing out – don’t worry it’s normal!
- Peel a thin layer of the skin from the dudhi. I use a potato peeler for ease
- Cut along length and then chop into small 2 inch pieces
- Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large heavy based saucepan (a pressure cooker is ideal)
- Add cumin seeds, red chilli and bayleaves.
- Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the garlic, chilies and cloves. Stir and cook until the garlic begins to brown
- Add the spices and cook for about 15 seconds to cook the spices. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.
- Add the dudhi, dal, mangosteen and curry leaves and mix to ensure that it is all coated well.
- Turn heat down and cover the pan. If you are using a pressure cooker, don’t add the weight.
- Cook until the dudhi and the dal softens. This can take up to half an hour. This slow cooking allows some of the gram from the dal to soak into the juices from the dudhi creating a slightly creamy texture. Don’t add any water as the dudhi has more than enough to cook the dal. Every now and again, give it a stir to make sure it doesn’t stick.
- Once the dudhi is softened, add the tomatoes and lemon juice (if you feel it is not sour enough) and cook for a further 5 minutes
- Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, rotlis or parathas.