Hot days are back, which means reverting to simple food. Food that is not only light on stomach but also quick to cook and fuss-free in the kitchen. Thank fully Nature has a system that takes care of our needs in all seasons. Lauki, Ghiya, Kaddu, Dudhi or Bottle Gourd is one such mildly sweet, calming, soothing vegetable with soft white flesh and 96% water content which makes it ideal for a quick summer cook.
It’s low in cholesterol and high in fibre, vitamin C, magnesium and iron. This popular Punjabi recipe of Lauki Chana Dal combines the health benefits of this lovely vegetable with proteins and healthy carbs from gram lentils, making the dish an overall winner in the nutritional department.
My mother used to cook Lauki Chana Dal curry with everything going together in one pot at the same time. While the taste was always delicious, the lentils somewhat lost their form and Lauki got too mushy in that method. Then I tasted the same curry in a roadside eatery (dhaba) where they boiled the lentils separately in salted water and then added them later on to a tomato and onion based Lauki curry. I like that idea as it enhanced the flavours more while keeping the forms intact and that’s how I cook my version, still keeping it a one-pot preparation.
Taste wise, it’s a wonderful contrast of textures and flavours, coming together in a delicious tomato based curry. The no-fuss, one-pot preparation requires a handful of ingredients that are mostly kitchen staples.
-You can soak the lentils for 30 minutes before cooking but if you are always in a hurry, like me, just boil them with a pinch of baking soda for quick results or use pressure cooker to cut the cooking time.
-If bottle gourd is not easily available where you live, you can substitute it with zucchini or any summer squash.
-garam masala is a blend of cumin, coriander, green and black cardamoms, cinnamon, black peppers and cloves. But almost every family has a blend of their own. Don’t have all these spices or access to readymade garam masala? No worries! Make a quick fix with cumin powder, black pepper and cinnamon mixed in proportions you prefer.
1/2 kg bottle gourd
1 cup Chana dal/Split Bengal Gram
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala or mix cumin, cinnamon and black pepper powder
2 tablespoons olive oil, ghee or sunflower oil
1/2 inch piece ginger
2 green chilli peppers
This Is What You Do:
Boil Chana dal with baking soda and a pinch of salt till tender but still retain their shape. Drain and set aside.
Peel and cut bottle gourd in cubes. Peel and slice onions. Peel and crush garlic. Dice tomatoes.
Heat oil in the same pan, add onions. Fry till light golden. Add bottle gourd, garlic, tomatoes, salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pan and let the curry simmer till bottle gourd is tender and tomatoes diluted into a chunky masala.
Add the lentils back to the pan, add garam masala and let them simmer in curry for 5 minutes. If there is too much liquid in the pan for your taste, cook a few more minutes with lid off. If the curry is too dry, add a little more water to get the desired consistency.
Garnish with julienned ginger and chopped green chilli peppers. Squeeze a lemon on top.
Serve with roti or rice.