FOOD & DRINK
WITH JOANNA BLYTHMAN, SUMAYYA USMANI, DEREK JOHNSTONE, ANDY GEMMELL AND PETE STEWART
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 sumayyausmani.com Twitter @SumayyaUsmani