This is my own recipe inspired from the traditional Kerala dish called ‘olan’. Olan is a stew made of ashgourd / white pumpkin / yelavan(Malayalam) / pooshnikai(Tamil) / Kaddu (Hindi) cooked and floated in thick coconut milk and a whole lot of well cooked black-eyed-peas in it. It tastes divine. But views are divided along borders. My Tamilian friends from Tanjore and Salem feel the dish is unduly exalted, and that the gravy is too watery. For some dishes you have to develop a taste and I suppose olan falls in that category. My son tries to leave the pieces of gourd behind when I am not looking and that is what inspired me to turn it into something that would make it definitely a better mouthful. If you are fond of Thai food, this olan inspired soup is for you.
The ‘Thai’ flavour comes from the abundance of coconut milk and a pod of garlic. It is a great option esp. for those with delicate health, convalscents and a great baby food. The traditional preparation does not have any seasoning, and garlic is not an option in it.
Dish: Kaddu ka shorba / Ashgourd soup
Serves – 3 persons
Ashgourd / White pumpkin / Kaddu – 400g
Coconut milk extracted from 4 cups of freshly grated coconut – about 4 cups milk
Cauliflower – 100g
Garlic (I used one head garlic) – 1 pod
Almonds soaked for at least 3 hours in plain water and skinned – 5 nos.
Coconut oil – 1/4 tsp.
Salt to taste
Peel and cut pumpkin into cubes. Separate cauliflower into small flowerets. Boil the two together in water enough to cover nearly whole of the vegetable. (Pumpkin cooks fast and does not require much water at all)
Cool and grind the cooked vegetables in the residual water along with almonds and garlic. Strain the juice. Repeat till you are left about 1 cup of smooth paste in the strainer. You should get about 3 cups of thick stock. The residue need not be thrown. It makes a good thickener for gravies as it does not have any taste. I used in the gravy while making chickpeas next day and no one knew about it.
Mix the coconut milk in the stock and warm on low heat till it gets warm enough. Do not heat on high flame or for long as the coconut milk may curdle.
If thin add a tablespoon of the residue paste and mix. Top with 1/4 tsp. of coconut oil and stir lightly once. Serve garnished with mint.
I have been complaining a lot lately of how I hardly get any time off, no time for myself, no cycling, no trekking, nothing at all. I asked for it and got it right here in Thane. I did not have to go too far too, it was at the railway station.
One mundane adventure-less morning I was walking across briskly to get to the ladies coach as the train slowly rolled into the platform. A young lad about 15 or 16 was also looking for some adventure too. He was perched on the roof of the train instead of inside it. Just as the train came to a halt, he jumped off heroically from the roof and fell right on top of me! It happened in a split second. I fell sideways into the hands of a man who was approaching from the opposite direction. He was desperate to stay alive, so he held my upper body from crashing onto his toe. My knee however ended up with a strained ligament. I got up, dusted, uttered a few choice expletives and burst laughing the next moment. It is that rotten sense of humor that keeps coming off at the most inappropriate times. Everyone else followed tow and the boy went away with a story to tell about his heroic deed and I limped across my way to the ladies coach of the next train that was already coming in. A week later, two days ago I realized that what I thought was a sprain was a strain and now am at home, blogging, browsing, hosting events and serving you all a soup for the cheery soul.
I do not mean to evoke sympathy at all – I am making the most of the ‘break’! 😀