This is an old recipe, revived, bringing in tides of nostalgia.
A recipe that strongly arouses memories of my childhood days with my grandparents. A grandpa immersed in books and a grandma who I like to associate with having a black wooden bureau adorned with wrought iron lions handles. I would like to think there was magic inside those drawers. No one knew what could appear from the depths. A piece of twine, folded pieces of textiles, nails, candles for power cuts, safety pins, extra tooth and hair brushes, a hair bun to puff your hair, endless boxes of beads and colored threads for embroidery or anything that anyone would need. And at anytime they were needed. That includes marbles for me to play with, some clothes for my dolls, matching hair barrettes and bows for when I wanted to dress up and so much more.
It never occurred to me that beautiful, deep and dark chest could ever fail and it never did. After all it was the chest brought to life from a fairy tale for me. If I wanted something I just had to ask her. And so did everyone else. My maa would tease her saying those were her “shampotti” – the treasured things. I can hear her laugh and say, “you never know what you might need…”
Yours truly with her Dida
What I treasure most my childhood is the immense amount of time I got to spend with my grandparents. They lived a few minutes away. I was loved, treasured, nourished, fed and taught by them. I wanted to be with them when I was sick. I would skip and hop with a bunch of flowers when I woke up early in the morning on holidays, and knock on their doors. Then I would sit by dida as she made breakfast. Our day would begin as I accompanied her to the morning market to get vegetables and fish for the day. My culinary education began early. I inspected vegetables, memorized their names and came back home to sort them for her and store them in the large orange basket she had. In between I would have poured my heart out, asked a zillion questions and turned around my dadu’s revolving bookshelves a few times, dusting out old leather bound books and sorting through books that belonged to maa and those that were saved for me.
Their little house was my refuge; the place where I could make my dreams come true and express myself to the fullest. The big courtyard that was attached to the front door was where I played kitchen. The garden that made its way out from the other door, was my escape to the world of creeping Madhabilata – with its scent that maddens the soul, Kanchan, and Shiuli Phool that I painted my palms with. I played with the dirt and the flowers, would swing myself back and forth on the iron gate waiting for my maa or baba to come and floated paper boats in this paradise when it rained and water pooled up.
It was a perfect life. I could not ask for more and would not trade for anything else.
My dida never seemed to run out of anything. Sumptuous snacks of lentils cutlets and fish croquettes would appear from nowhere when we had a houseful of unannounced guests. A five course meal would be cooked without a sweat in what appeared to be very little time. She had this crafty ability and intelligence to make the best with whatever she had. The fish croquettes were probably made with the fish that was cooked for dinner. And she never threw away anything. But I already told you that.
So when my cousin came in last month and salvaged the peels of the lauki/bottle gourd I was throwing away, I knew where she was heading. I had quite forgotten that green paste I loved with the hot steaming rice – smelling of garlic and nigella. Her MIL makes it the same way as my dida did. Dida used up the peels of most vegetables – plantain peels went into making “malish” (the same kind of recipe as I have today), potato peels were stir fried with poppy seeds, some others went it making fritters. The list is endless. The creativity infinite.
Lau-er Khosha Bata: Chutney with Bottle Gourd Peel
Ingredients: (serves 2 as a side/condiment)
- peels of one medium Bottle Gourd/Lau/Lauki**
- 1/4 teaspoon (heapful) nigella/kaloni seeds
- 1 whole dry red chilli pepper
- 1 green hot chili pepper (if you do not like spicy, remove membrane and seeds)
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1.5 teaspoon freshly ground mustard paste (optional)
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil (or any other oil)
- a couple of tablespoon fresh cilantro/coriander (optional)
Note: ** If the amount of the peel seems very little, you may throw in a few pieces of the bottle gourd flesh along with the peels.
Add sliced bottle gourd skin to boiling water (just enough to cover them) and let boil for 10-12 minutes. They will just soften. Grind them with a splash of water (you may use more water if you need to when you are grinding; keep in mind that it will take you longer to cook and get it to a paste like consistency). You may use the same water that it was cooked it. You may add some fresh cilantro leaves if you want while making the paste.
Heat oil in a pan/wok.
Add kalonji seeds and dry chilli pepper, the slit green chili pepper and the garlic to the oil. Cook on low to medium heat. The seeds will sizzle. When the garlic starts getting brown, add the ground up paste of the peels. Cook while stirring frequently for about 7 – 10 minutes on low heat or until peels are well cooked. The color of the peels will change to a darker shade of green and the raw taste should have disappeared. The consistency will be like that of a paste.
Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Serve with hot steaming rice.
Preparation Time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
More Memories of my Grandparents:
- Sweet & Spicy Fruit Chutney – Spread the Warmth
- Sweet and Spicy Green Mango Chutney: Kancha Aamer Chutney
- Tangy Hot Oil
- Vegan Basil Pesto
- Watermelon & Mint Jelly
- Zucchini Raita: Zucchini and Yogurt Salad
- Plum Applesauce
- Preserved Figs with Spices and Rose Petals
- Roasted Eggplant with Sun-dried Tomatoes
- Roasted Garlic
- Homemade Harissa
- Homemade: Chaat Masala
- Homemade: Ginger and Garlic Pastes
- Indian Chinese Red Chilli Sauce
- Makhani Masala / Butter based Tomato Cream Sauce
- Mango Jam
- Marinated Feta Cheese
- Mint & Coriander Chutney- Green Chutney