Are there are a lot of exceptionally mediocre recipes out there? Or is it just Google throwing up countless, tasteless recipes only when I query a particular ingredient? It’s hardly surprising so many people go out to eat. And then there are the exceptions! And I was in luck to find both that inspired this dish: Dudhi ki sabzi – Bottle gourd in gravy and Moong dal fry. And thrilled about it, too. In a roundabout way I’d bought dudhi or bottle gourd, something I don’t remember trying before. And that sparked off the necessity of finding a recipe to suit. That didn’t happen. And I didn’t care. As I didn’t especially care for the pan-fried dudhi anyway. It just tasted bland in a slightly scorched way. And I’m definitely not trying it boiled. But! As I’d bought in mung dal for the first time as well I went with. And so glad I did. What surprises me is the use of fennel seeds here, that I’ve seen in several recipes recently. I’ve only ever used them with sweetcorn. And a beef dish I made up using up ingredients my then neighbour left outside my door as he was off to New York. In fact, the poor guy decided to defrost his freezer the night before. Hence the fortress built in the hallway containing countless parcels, mostly wrapped in towels to prevent them from defrosting too quickly. Wouldn’t have mattered. As most of them were well beyond their sell-by date. And I wasn’t for chancing those. One of the advantages of having trained as a chef. Being able to read dates!
And I must make Toby’s boeuf (as I’d called it) again, when I’m eating meat. Until then I’m perfectly happy with playing with spices. Not to the extent that I feel particularly confident with just going with spices to hand. I do need guidance. Which is where both blogs come in. What I’ve ended up with isn’t even remotely authentic. And that’s not the point. This is spicy and incredibly flavoursome. Exactly what I expect from a curry. The fact that it’s loaded with caramelised onions – yes, those again! – and finished off with butter and a little single/light cream may cause certain facial expressions – mostly of disdain. But, even though I’ve never been to India I couldn’t see anything so terribly wrong with adding them. Especially as ghee is extensively used. And cream. Although that might just be for the British palate over here. I don’t know. What I do realise is that I wasn’t happy with the watery gravy the first time I made this, that for me needed emulsified to pull all of those flavours together. And what surprised me was the use of the fennel seeds. A word of caution: there’s a metric measuring teaspoon used before dry roasting and grinding. After that there’s only a quarter teaspoonful used at a time to get this to personal taste. As otherwise the fennel is overpowering. For me that cautionary route worked. And great to have extra for reheating this the following day as the flavour of the fennel dissipates, considerably. Another quarter teaspoon definitely needed to perk this up again. As for the forlorn rice! It’s organic long grain. And very delicious. Just not with this dish. Don’t like the texture. What’s needed is a big, fat, flaky home-made paratha cooked in all it’s buttery-gheeness ‘n’ splendour. Now, where to find a recipe!?
PREP: about 30 mins ~ COOK: 30 mins ~ READY IN: 45 mins
ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED: pestle & mortar or electric grinder suitable for grinding whole spices
- up to 300g (10.58 oz) x onions, peeled, trimmed, sliced from their root end toward the stem, turned and root end sliced off to end up with half crescents
- 1 or 2 x green finger chillies (Scoville heat units/rating: 50,000), washed and slit (for a milder curry use one and keep it whole)
- 1 x dried bay leaf, split
- 1 x organic garlic clove, peeled, trimmed and kept whole
- 100g (3.527 oz) x yellow mung dal, rinsed in cold water until the water runs clear
- 1 x teaspoon coriander seeds, dry roasted and ground separately
- 1 x teaspoon fennel seeds, dry roasted and ground separately – only up to ½ teaspoon ground actually used
- ½ x teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- ½ - ¾ x teaspoon freshly grated ginger (use less to begin with and add more to personal taste)
- ¼ x teaspoon ground turmeric
- freshly ground sea salt, to personal taste
- 200ml (6.763 fl oz) x cold water
- 2 – 3 x tablespoons single/light cream
- 10g (0.353 oz) x unsalted butter, more to personal taste
- red pepper flakes (if curry isn’t hot enough due to the chillies used) – optional
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Start by putting a heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 out of 6. Prep the onions, and by that time the pan should be hot enough to add a good glug of oil, the onions, chillies, bay leaf and a lid. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring through occasionally, and then remove the lid for the rest of cooking time. Add the whole clove of garlic. Any signs of the onions drying out add either a splash of water or a drizzle more oil. Any signs of scorching reduce the heat. Mine take at least 30 minutes, reducing the heat to No 2 after about 20. Heat may have to be reduced sooner to prevent scorching. Either add several grinds of freshly ground sea salt to the onions and stir through or add them to step 3 below.
- Bring a large saucepan half full of cold water to a boil on heat No 4 with a lid. When boiling add the well rinsed yellow mung dal, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for up to 15 minutes, checking before this time to make sure they’re not overcooking. They should be soft if squished but not so soft they’re about to disintegrate. Take off heat, drain into a suitable metal sieve and immediately plunge into cold running water to prevent them from cooking any further. When absolutely cold drain well and set aside.
- Put a heavy-based pan on heat No 3 and when hot add a little oil. Add the yellow mustard seeds and let them splutter. Take off heat and add the grated ginger, ground coriander, turmeric and up to half a teaspoon only of the ground fennel seeds and stir through to combine. Allow spices to infuse. The residual heat of the pan should be enough to do so. Add the drained mung dal and stir through. Put back on heat No 3 and pour in the water. Bring to a mild simmer until the onions are ready. Add a couple of grinds of freshly ground sea salt and stir through. Reduce heat to No 2 if necessary to prevent the gravy from reducing too quickly.
- When dal is needed add the caramelised onion mixture to the spices, up the heat if necessary to not only heat the onions through but also to reduce the gravy. Add a little butter and a couple of tablespoons of single/light cream and stir to combine. Keep on heat until gravy/sauce is reduced to the consistency needed. Taste for any needed extra ground fennel, red pepper flakes (if not hot enough) and seasoning. Remove the bay leaf and chillies before serving.
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