It has a mildly sweet, almost neutral taste and soft firm flesh. To be honest, like most people, I also never found it to be a very exciting vegetable to eat unless some creative play with spices and other ingredients made it exciting. And the neutral flavour, in that case, works like a good canvas for a beautiful painting.
I loved the lauki and lentils koftas (meatballs) that my mom used to make or even the sweet and simple pudding. But the recipe that entirely changes your opinion of good old, humble and simple lauki is the potatoes and peas Stuffed Bottle Gourd Curry.
It sounds pretty complicated but really is a breeze to cook. Other than potatoes and peas there are so many options for filling – cottage or paneer cheese, mushrooms, cabbage and for non vegetarians, meat mince (keema).
If bottle gourds are not available or in season where you live, you can use other gourd and squash varieties of similar shape to stuff. The cooking time will change according to how hard or soft the flesh of the chosen vegetable is. Zucchini, courgettes and butternut squash are good substitutes. Instead of cutting rings, you can cut them into halves for stuffing.
For Stuffed Bottle Gourd:
2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 cup peas, boiled
1 small onion, chopped
A small bunch coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 inch piece ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt to taste
Scooped out flesh of bottle gourd
2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
This Is What You Do:
Scoop out the flesh and seeds. Don’t waste them. Set them aside.
Boil the bottle gourd rings in salted water till tender but still firm enough to hold the filling.
Scoop them out and allow to cool down at room temperature.
Meanwhile prepare the filling and curry.
For filling mix, mashed potatoes, chopped onion, coriander, cumin seeds, red chilli flakes, black pepper and salt.
Stir in peas but mix carefully so that they don’t get mashed up.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Fry onions till golden.
Remove from heat. Scoop out onions from oil. Blend them in electric blender with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, scooped out bottle gourd flesh and all the spices and salt to make a smooth paste.
Add the paste back to the oil in the pan. Cook on medium heat till oil separates from the masala.
Add 1+1/2 cup water to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer.
Stuff the potato and peas stuffing into the cooked bottle gourd rings.
Gently place them in the simmering curry. Cover the pan. Cook together for 5-6 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or roti.