Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stuffed Teasel Gourds

Stuffed teasel gourd
Stuffed teasel gourds
This is the season when gourds flood the markets. And one that seems to be everyone's favourite is the teasel gourd. It's from a climber with tuberous roots. The leaves are soft and edible. In fact the tender leaves and shoots cook easily and is somewhat like spinach. Also known as the spiny gourd, the 'spines' are actually soft. Called hangathai in my mother tongue and bhat kerela in Assamese, the vegetable is rich in carotene, protein and vitamin C. These gourds are eaten as fresh as one can get them. The taste is mild. When they ripen, just like the bitter gourds, they turn yellow and the seed encasings, a bright red.

In winter the vine dies but with the first rains, the new leaves appear. It needs a support and even a small trellis, or bamboo, smaller branches of trees make a good support for this plant. Once I had wanted to make palak paneer in the month of July. But spinach wasn't easily available during that time of the year in the 90s. But I had the vines in my backyard and I used the tender leaves for the dish. It worked like a dream!
Teasel gourd/leaves, the ripened fruit and the flower
Before we left for the weekend I had made some stuffed gourds. The gourds can be stuffed with any filling of your choice but I made the simplest form using two medium boiled potatoes.
Ingredients:
5 tender teasel gourds
2 medium boiled potatoes
1 large grated onion
2 cloves of garlic, ground
A tiny piece of ginger, grated
3 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp coriander & cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of whole cumin seeds
Salt to taste
A small bunch of chopped coriander leaves
Vegetable oil to fry+ extra for frying the filling
For the batter:
4 tbs chickpea flour
1 tbs rice flour
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of chilli powder
Pinch of salt
Chopped spring onions for the garnish

Lightly peel off the 'bristles'. It doesn't make any difference to the taste but looks neater. Heat about 3 cups of water in a pan and boil the gourds till half-done. Remove from the flame and drain in a colander.
When the vegetables cool down, cut each one in half lengthwise.
Take a small sharp knife and run it along the edge where the skin and the flesh meet. This makes it easier to scoop out the gourdy innards with a spoon.
Repeat with the rest of the gourds. Set the shells aside and finely chop the scooped-out parts.
Peel and dice the potatoes. Heat 2 tbs oil in a pan and add the whole cumin seeds.
When they sputter, add the grated onions. Fry till they change colour, add the chopped chillies then add the rest of the spices.
Add the chopped scooped-out pieces of gourd and the diced potatoes. Season with salt.
Cook till the vegetables are done. Remove and add the chopped coriander. Mix well and set aside to cool.
Prepare the batter by mixing the two kinds of flour, the powdered spices, salt and a bit of water.
After the filling cools down, fill each shell with the prepared stuffing.
Heat enough oil in a pan. Dip one stuffed gourd in the batter and fry it in the hot oil.
2-3 gourds can be fried at the same time. Fry till one side is golden. Turn and fry on the other side.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with absorbent paper.
Repeat with the rest. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with chopped herbs.
This goes best with rice, dal and maybe another accompaniment. The extra crunch came from the rice flour and the filling was just right. I might soon be making more stuffed gourds but with a different filling.
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