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Stewed Ash-gourd

Posted May 14 2009 5:01pm
Summer months are short here, lasting around two months, occasionally three if the monsoon rains are lighter than usual. However, they can be pretty intense, making up for the short duration, with temperatures soaring to 42 degrees during the afternoons. It's hard to spend time in the kitchen during that time, with sweat pouring down your brow. Power shortage doesn't make it any easier. So one tends to look for something to make that requires the barest minimum of physical exertion.

Stewing ashgourd slowly in water is one of my favorite side dishes during these times. Ashgourd is one of those vegetables that I find can be consumed in generous quantities without guilt. The white waxy coating on its green skin is what gives it its name. This waxy coating protects this gourd and naturally enhances its shelf life. In villages and farms, one can see this particular vegetable stocked in storage rooms, smaller ones hanging from beams, often stored for a year or so. However, because of the high water content within the gourd's flesh, it needs to be consumed as fast as possible once cut open.

The vegetable seems to be popular for its medicinal qualities. I came across a nutritionist's point of view; clickherefor her ideas on it. Its high water contentis an added bonus during these summer months.

This recipe is effortless. I first learnt it through my mother whose cooking skills are unmatched by anyone in my opinion, and it is a sort of traditional dish made at my in-laws regularly each week, where fluid replenishment is of utmost importance.

All you have to do is chop up the required amount of ashgourd (after shaving away the tough outer green skin and removing the hard mature seeds; if the gourd is very tender, I sometimes skip this step) into bite-sized chunks, place these in a pot of water along with tamarind juice, requisite chilli powder (amount varies depending on how spicy you want it) and salt. Sugar or jaggery may be added to balance the flavor, but in my case I cannot add these; its absence however does not dent the flavor all that much.

Set this to boil on low heat until the chunks are cooked. There's nothing much else one needs to do except relax under the fan while this boils away. One can tell if the ashgourd is cooked once it acquires a translucent pearly appearance as opposed to the opaque whiteness of its raw flesh.

For seasoning, usually mustard seeds are spluttered in hot oil along with crushed garlic. A variation that I often try is just adding a seasoning of spluttered mustard seeds and curry leaves.

This is usually a side dish served along with rice and other vegetables. My favorite way of eating it is in a simple combination with white rice and cold curds as it is extremely easy on the tummy. On hot nights, we also have it with dosa and a serving of green chilli chutney.

This is my entry to theWYF: Quick Mealevent hosted by EC of Simple Indian Cooking.

This piping hot stew is also my entry to theComfort Foodevent hosted by Trupti at Recipe Center.
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