Kulhadi ka dalia is the Hindi translation of the Russian folktale Axe Soup that I read many summers ago. It is a version of Stonesoup, and a story that I find similar to this bottle gourd peel chutney.
You’ve all probably heard some version of the story in your childhood. In Stonesoup the message is more about the pleasure of sharing and the good that comes from cooperation. The Axe Soup carries a subtle lesson about human management – how to use the inherent greed in fellow humans, of wanting to get something out of nothing, to get out of others more than they are willing to give.
But little do we expect to ever come face to face with legends outside of books of tales.
I have always wondered if this recipe is not the bright idea of an enterprising young bride to get an additional dish ‘on the left side’ . Which Indian mother-in-law, ever mindful of the monthly budget and wanting to keep in check the wants of the younger woman, would turn down the offer to make a resource out of waste?
The only other time I have eaten anything made from peels was a side-dish of fried slivered potato peels at a Bengali friend’s home. Simply sprinkled with salt and chilli powder, they had been an amazingly delicious accompaniment to the traditional meal. But, alas, I wasn’t able to replicate it at home and all that labour-intensive chopping of peels had ended where it had always been destined.
When my MIL mentioned that she was going to use the bottle gourd peel for chutney, I, inwardly, just rolled my eyes at the lengths people will go to make food from waste. But much to my surprise the crispy fried ‘chutney’ of bottle gourd peel not only tasted great but was perfect when paired with the bottle gourd-chana dal subzi.
As I de-constructed the chutney I could only smile at the brilliance of the housewife who thought of it first. Like the old woman in the Axe Soup, the one who ruled the kitchen was lured into sparing a little bit of this and a little bit of that to put together a chutney rich in flavour and texture. A chutney that by another name might be called coconut-sesame seed chutney!
As my second offering to showcase Maharashtrian cuisine at this month’s RCI, at Nupur’s One Hot Stove, I present to you this marvel that gets you a lot of mileage from the bottle gourd peel. The original idea for this event that highlights the cuisine of a different region of India every month is Lakshmi’s.
Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney
Doodhi Saala chi Chutney
Grated peel of one bottle gourd (see notes), about 1 C
½ C grated copra (dry coconut)
¼ C sesame seeds
3-4 green chillies, chopped
1-2 T oil
1 t Mustard seeds
¼ t mild hing
¼ t turmeric powder
Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, cover the pan immediately till the spluttering stops. Uncover, and add hing and turmeric. Add chopped green chillies, and the grated peel. Stir continuously till the peels start to brown slightly (and are no longer one lump), about three to four minutes. This is easier if you use more oil rather than the 1 tablespoon I usually use; on your first attempt I recommend you use more oil. Add the grated coconut and stir another couple of minutes. Add the sesame and stir till the all the ingredients are nicely roasted and crisp. Turn off heat, add salt, and stir to mix. Store in an airtight container. Best used the same day.
Serve with a Maharashtrian meal that includes a subzi (vegetable) prepared using the simple everyday tempering of rai-hing-haldi (mustard seed-hing-turmeric).
- There is a trick to preparing the peel. The peelings should come out no longer than ¾ inch, and thick so that there is a little bit of the flesh. This keeps the peel from burning during all the frying, and was probably why that experiment with chopping the potato peel did not yield the desired result.
- Wash and cut the bottle gourd into three or four sections for easy handling. Using the larger holes of the grater, grate off the peel in a quick twist of the wrist. Lift, rotate a little, and then push down on the grater, again using a short swift forceful twist. Repeat till all the peel is removed. There should be no back and forth motion, as is normal when grating. You should be left with a textured piece of bottle gourd, and a pile of grated peel that looks like zest. (I will add photographs for this step soon, I promise).