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Re­cently I have been delv­ing deep into my fam­ily reper­toire of recipes. Hail­ing from a back­ground where meat dishes were al­ways the hero, I’ve strug­gled to find many veg­e­tar­ian win­ners. How­ever, there was al­ways room for one unas­sum­ing veg­e­tar­ian dish on our din­ing table – the lauki (cal­abash or bot­tle gourd) kofta. This mod­est green gourd, boast­ing nei­ther in­ten­sity nor ex­cite­ment, is ac­tu­ally a silent car­rier of in­ter­est­ing flavours.

This trea­sured fam­ily recipe has its roots in my Dadi’s (pa­ter­nal grand­mother) kitchen. It has had quite a jour­ney through time. Orig­i­nally dic­tated to my mother and jot­ted down on the back of a school notebook back in the day, it was dis­cussed dur­ing a re­cent ex­change with my phuppo (aunt) on so­cial me­dia. It is one of those recipes I

be­lieve will find its way into my daugh­ter’s bot­tom drawer – per­haps af­ter an even more mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion method than so­cial me­dia.

As recipes do, this one too has taken on dif­fer­ent nu­ances along the way. I have added a few in­gre­di­ents to the orig­i­nal list, mak­ing it my own yet keep­ing it true to my Dadi’s recipe.

Fam­ily recipes, I be­lieve, must adapt with era and lo­ca­tion, but must al­ways re­main au­then­ti­cally true to her­itage. These days I usu­ally sub­sti­tute the lauki with cour­gette or squash, what­ever is in sea­son.

Com­bin­ing grated veg­eta­bles with a few sim­ple spices makes for a much more sat­is­fy­ing kofta than can be cre­ated us­ing one-di­men­sional mince.

It can be added to a curry leaf scented tomato sauce (as here) and served with rice, or added to a wrap with sauces and salad and even eaten as frit­ters with a spicy dip.

Recipe Veg­e­tar­ian kofta curry

Serves 4 peo­ple Takes 30 min­utes to pre­pare For the kofta: 1 large bot­tle gourd (or cour­gette), peeled and grated

2 tsp dried me­thi leaves

1 or 2 thin green chilli, chopped finely 2 tbsp finely chopped co­rian­der leaves 5 mint leaves, chopped finely

¾ tsp pow­dered gin­ger

1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds

½ tsp red chilli pow­der

Salt to taste

2-3 tbsp chick­pea (gram) flour Fresh tamarind if pos­si­ble: a small half tea­spoon-sized piece to place in mid­dle of each kofta

100 ml veg­etable oil

For the tomato curry leaf sauce:

½ tbsp co­conut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp mus­tard seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

½ tsp each of crushed gar­lic and grated gin­ger

5-8 fresh curry leaves

4 medium juicy toma­toes, chopped finely 1 tbsp tomato puree

Salt to taste

½ tsp red chilli pow­der Method: 1.To make the kofta: Peel and grate the bot­tle gourd, squeeze out all the wa­ter by press­ing be­tween palms of your hands un­til all the mois­ture is gone. Place in a bowl, mix to­gether with chill­ies, me­thi, pow­dered gin­ger, co­rian­der, red chilli and salt, un­til com­bined.

2. Start adding gram flour one ta­ble­spoon at a time to the grated gourd and keep mix­ing with your hands till the mix­ture be­comes a lit­tle thicker and forms a ball eas­ily. (The se­cret in is the amount of gram flour you add, so you may not need all of it, de­pend­ing on how much of the mois­ture you took out of the gourd ear­lier – too lit­tle and the koftas might break, too much and they will be too hard.)

3. As soon as the gourd/cour­gette mix­ture is ready, take about one ta­ble­spoon­ful of it and flat­ten it in your hands. Add a piece of tamarind in the mid­dle and shape into small golf-size balls.

4. Heat oil in a fry­ing pan, fry on medium heat to a golden brown and drain on kitchen pa­per 5. To make the sauce: Heat the co­conut oil in a saute pan. Once hot, add the mus­tard and cumin seeds and when they splut­ter, add the onion, gin­ger and gar­lic. Cook this off for about 2-3 min­utes un­til translu­cent. Add curry leaves and once they splut­ter, add chopped toma­toes and puree. Add a lit­tle wa­ter, cover the pan and cook on a low heat. 6. Al­low this to cook un­til oil rises to the top of a thick tomato sauce. This takes about 15-20 min­utes, with some pa­tient stir­ring ev­ery now and then. Once ready, pop in the koftas and sim­mer for 5-7 min­utes, cov­ered, on a low heat. Serve hot with rice.

Sumayya Usmani co-presents BBC Ra­dio Scot­land’s Kitchen Cafe. Her books, Sum­mers Un­der The Tamarind Tree and Moun­tain Berries And Desert Spice are out now, pub­lished by Frances Lin­coln Visit sumayyaus­ Twit­ter @SumayyaUs­mani

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