POTOLER DOLMA (Stuffed Pointed Gourd in a spicy gravy)

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Potoler Dolma is a delectable Bengali dish which is a quintessential part of any traditional function or festival. The stuffing/ filling used in this recipe is minced mutton (keema). But of course, the options are many, like- grated coconut, paneer (cottage cheese), minced prawns and all are equally delicious! As you know that my mum is here, so it goes without saying that this is her recipe 😀

I realized that I had never bothered to find out about the origin of the word ‘dolma’. Upon researching, I learned that, in Turkish, Dolma means stuffed. It is also commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines. It was during the time of the Sultanate’s rule in Bengal that this dish ‘Potoler Dolma’ was created using local vegetables/ meat.

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I love the intricacy of the dish. From scooping out the flesh and seeds of potol, to frying it, preparing the stuffing, making the gravy and then cooking everything together. It’s a work of art and the end result is just brilliant! But I never really cooked it at home (lazy me :P) and now living away from home in India, I rarely get to eat it these days. But a small cute incident made me fall in love with the dish all over again and so now, I intend to make it once in a while.

It was during one of our trips back home in Calcutta, when my mum made potoler dolma among a host of other dishes, for her beloved son-in-law and me 😀 As S took a bite, he nonchalantly remarked that this dish was his favourite! It’s very rare that he actually says something like that because he is not much of a foodie and doesn’t really care what you give him to eat (savior at times 😛 ). Of course I know what he enjoys eating but he never says what his favourite is, so this was a sweet revelation for me. And when mum wanted to cook something special on naboborsho (Bengali New Year) which was on 15th of April, this dish was my first choice. It was pure joy to watch him savour his ‘favourite’ dish 🙂

Ingredients:

For Stuffing:

  • 10 potols/ pointed gourds
  • 250 g minced mutton
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 large grated tomato
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled and crumbled
  • Scooped flesh and seeds of the pointed gourds
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil for frying

For Gravy:

  • Whole garam masala, crushed (5-6 green cardamom, 4 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick)
  • 1 tsp jeera/ cumin seeds
  • 2-3 green chilies
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil

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Method:

Deseeding the potol/ pointed gourd

Cut the two ends of a potol and very lightly scrape it using a blunt knife. Now carefully scoop out the flesh and the seeds from inside without breaking the potol. You can use a fork or the back of a small spoon to do this.  Keep the seeds and flesh aside to be used later.

Now rub a little salt and turmeric on inside and outside of the potols and fry them in mustard oil. Keep aside to cool.

Stuffing:

Heat some mustard oil in a kadhai/ wok and add chopped onions. Stir for a while and when they get soft, add ginger-garlic paste. Stir for a minute or till the raw smell goes away, now add the tomatoes and throw in green chilies. Fry well. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala and mix everything well. Now add the keema (minced mutton), flesh and seeds of potols, salt and mix well. Cook for a while till you see oil separating from the mix. Now mash the potatoes and add into the stuffing mix. Combine everything well and cook till the gravy dries up. Let it cool.

Now fill the scooped out and fried potols with the stuffing. Make sure that they are stuffed till the edge tightly. Keep a little stuffing aside to be added into the gravy later.

Gravy:

In the same wok, heat some more mustard oil, add some sugar to get a rich red colour of the gravy. Once it caramelizes, add crushed whole garam masalas, cumin seeds and green chilies. Once the aroma of the masala releases, add ginger paste. Stir for a while. In a small cup, mix turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder with some water to make a paste and add into the gravy. Throw in the tomato puree and keep stirring till you see oil separating from the masalas. Now add water and salt and cover the kadhai and let it come to a boil (medium flame). Now add the potols into the gravy along with the extra stuffing. Cover and now cook on a low flame. When gravy thickens to your desired consistency, add some freshly ground garam masala and switch off the gas. Cover the wok and let it get a standing time of at least 10 minutes.

Serve hot with plain white rice.

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NOLEN GURER PAYESH (Rice Pudding with Date Palm Jaggery)

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For me, this very name brings back a lot of memories. No festival/ wedding/ function in winters is complete without a dessert made with nolen gur. The sheer variety of desserts that can be made using this lip smacking gur/ jaggery is endless. From payesh to pitheys, ice cream, sandesh, and so much more! Every household has their own version of this dish and today I am going to share with you how my mum cooks it. She is now here with me in KL, and she got some nolen gur packed for me from India. Yay!! S loves anything sweet and I am always looking for ways to satiate his sweet tooth, so what better than homemade payesh. Its gluten free and the best thing? It was cooked by mum and it tasted heavenly! Someone rightly said, Desserts is stressed spelled backwards 😀

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There are certain ‘musts’ in this recipe to make the authentic payesh. The first is Date Palm Jaggery or Nolen Gur/ Notun Gur. In India, this particular jaggery is available only in winters and it is an inherent part of the culinary tradition of Bengal in winters. It has a rich nutty flavour and simply melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The second one is the type of rice to be used, which is Gobindobhog (an aromatic rice). You can substitute it with basmati rice but it won’t be the real deal 🙂

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Ingredients (to serve 4-5 people):

  • 1 Litre full cream milk (full fat or full cream milk is essential for that creamy consistency)
  • 60-65gm gobindobhog/ basmati rice (this ratio is important! For every 1 l milk, approx. 60gm of rice to be used)
  • Nolen gur/ Date Palm Jaggery (no strict measurement for this, as per your taste)

*Note: If you don’t have date palm jaggery, you may substitute it with date syrup available in most groceries or brown sugar*

  • 2 tsp Raisins
  • Few crushed green cardamoms
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • Almonds for garnishing

Method:

In a deep bottomed pan, heat the milk. Let it come to a boil while stirring continuously, so that no cream is formed. While the milk is boiling, add the crushed cardomoms and the bay leaves and keep stirring with the ladle until the milk thickens. Now add the rice into the pan (the rice should be washed and dried on a flat surface before adding into the milk). Again keep stirring and when the rice is completely cooked, throw in the jaggery or sugar and mix well till completely dissolved in milk. Once the pudding thickens to your desired consistency, add the raisins and switch off the flame after 2-3 minutes. Garnish with dry fruits of your choice. You may serve it hot or chilled, tastes great both ways 🙂

3 important tips to remember for the perfect payesh:

  1. Always use full cream milk for best results.
  2. While cooking, keep stirring the milk continuously so that no cream/ layer forms on top.
  3. Most importantly, keep in mind that the jaggery/ sugar should always be added after the rice is cooked perfectly. Once the sweet goes in, the rice stops getting cooked further.

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