Lauki ka Raita, Bottle Gourd in Yogurt:

With the mercury rising mercilessly, our diet patterns change a lot to make room for more coolants, fruits and vegetables. In South Asia, specially Punjab, the dependence on dairy products increases, like milk, yogurt and cool and light dishes prepared with them become an essential part of each meal.

Lauki/ghia or bottle gourd has white, mildly sweet flesh and light green skin. It comes in round, melon sized variety as well as long, bottle shaped and cylindrical shape. It is low in calories and has zero cholesterol, but is rich in fibre, water content, vitamin C and antioxidants. Usually Lauki is cooked in form of halwa (pudding) which is really delicious but adding lots of sugar and ghee( clarified butter) nullifies most of it’s natural health benefits. There are other better ways to incorporate this wonderful gift of nature in our diet too – one of them and my favourite is making raita with Lauki/ghia.

For those of you who are not familiar with ‘raita’ – it is a side dish, quite like a cold soup , dip or salad in the western cuisine. Instead of spicing up the main dish, raita has a cooling effect to contrast with spicy curries, kebabs and biryanis, also can be eaten as a starter or on it’s own for a light meal. It is usually prepared by mixing raw or cooked vegetables, fruits, lentils and dumplings with mildly seasoned yogurt. In some parts of the region different tempering or tarka is used to enhance the flavours and in others it is eaten just like that without any oil added to it.

Lauki ka raita combines the cooling effects of bottle gourd with the protein rich yogurt.
Chopped fresh vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and fresh mint add a lot of flavour and freshness to the bowl. Whereas the final simple tarka or tempered oil with cumin and peanuts makes it exciting and appealing to the palate. You can also use mustard seeds, red chilli flakes in the tempered oil or you can skip it altogether and load up your raita with spring onions and fresh herbs of your choice.

Ingredients:

2 bottle gourds
4 cup thick yogurt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ripe tomato, diced
2 green chilli peppers, finely choppe
A few fresh mint leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon crushed peanuts

This Is What You Do:

Peel and grate the bottle gourds on a grater by hand or in a food processor with the help of the grating attachment.

Boil water in a saucepan. Place the grated bottle gourds in a muslin cloth. Tie a bundle and place this bundle in the boiling water for 2 minutes. We don’t want to make it mushy, just take away the raw taste and soften the texture a little bit.

Remove from hot water and let it come down to room temperature. Squeeze out all the water, open the bundle and remove the softened grated bottle gourd into a bowl.

Beat the yogurt in a big mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper and cumin powder. Add onions, tomatoes, green chilli peppers and mint leaves. Add the grated bottle gourd. Mix to combine everything.

Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and crushed peanuts. Sauté for a few seconds and pour the tempered oil over the Lauki ka Raita. Garnish with more mint leaves.

Keep refrigerated till served. Serve cool.

Serves 4

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