Axe Soup aka Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney

doodhi peel chutney
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.

Youโ€™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’ ๐Ÿ˜€ . 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 friendโ€™s home. Simply sprinkled with salt and chilli powder, they had been an amazingly delicious accompaniment to the traditional meal. But, alas, I wasnโ€™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 โ€˜chutneyโ€™ 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 monthโ€™s RCI, at Nupurโ€™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.

doodhi peel chutney

Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney
Doodhi Saala chi Chutney

Grated peel of one bottle gourd (see notes), about 1 C
ยฝ C grated copra (dry coconut)
ยผ C sesame seeds
3-4 green chillies, chopped
1-2 T oil
1 t Mustard seeds
ยผ t mild hing
ยผ 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 ยพ 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).

20 thoughts on “Axe Soup aka Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney

  1. A recipe with a moral! How cool! Trust you to come up with something delicious and unique. Thanks for the entry, Anita!

    Thanks, Nupur. Most of the stuff served ‘on the left-side’ is really impressive to a Kashmiri as we rarely bother with anything but rice+meat+veggies+dahi. The effort and planning that a traditional Maharashtrian housewife puts into the daily meals is truly impressive.

  2. I see you mentioned potatoes… ๐Ÿ˜€ There is a hearty appetizer made here- often just had on its own with drinks as well: “stuffed” potato-peels… more like slathered in butter and sour cream, sprinkled with green onions, bacon, sometimes cheddar cheese…or Mexican salsas!
    I do indeed remember the tale of Stone Soup…wow, that was a long time ago- grammar-school days! And I can relate to your MIL: there are many fine dishes born of a desire to waste nothing; a little creativity can be a blessing. My grandmothers, who lived through the Great Depression here in the US, still maintained that philosophy through more prosperous times: one of them was quite skilled in creating new dishes of left-overs from the last evening’s meal…quite annoying when a little boy tries to get the recipe.
    Nice dish, and nice introduction Anita. Thank you for sharing!

    Ah, another real-life ‘soupstone’ dish. I’ll have to try the grated Bengali potato peels one more time, now that I know the trick to the peels. But in this appetizer you mention how are the peels prepared? Thick peels with a knife or does the peeler (the one that makes thickish peels) work?

  3. tamilians make bottle gourd peel chutney regularly, as well as ridge gourd peel chutney. they puree it to a paste, though.

    Yes, but that is really peel chutney where the peel is the main ingredient. Here I think the peel is an excuse… ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. I had a feeling that mention of that dish would perk your interest; I don’t know why… ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s see now…my second ex-ago was the master of potato-dishes and this forces me to recollect…take roasted whole potatoes I believe; cut them in half and scoop out <em>most</em> of the potato-flesh- use it for mashed potatoes, etc; cut these halves in half length-wise(you end up with long quarters)and brush the outside and inside with oil; place these on a pan and place under the broiler (if you have a broiling-rack- or just in the oven) and roast until a bit golden(sprinkle grated cheese on them also if you like before roasting); take them out and serve with sour cream/yoghurt, chopped green onions, ground black pepper, etc. Now that I look at this recipe, it sounds Balto-Slavic doesn’t it?

    Hmm, now that you have described it – I seem to remember reading this recipe – the baked potato skins must be perfect for receiving all the greasy toppings! Or one could lessen the guilt by healthier accompaniments. These would be great for a party!

    Impressing us with your knowledge of other cuisines, I see. You get all the prizes, Pel! ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. stone soup, eh! necessity is definitely the mother of invention in such cases. now that u have espoused it, i have to try it..:)anything will taste great with copra!

    The mother-in-law! ๐Ÿ˜‰ You’re right – can’t go wrong with copra and til!

  6. My mom would make a chutney out of the inner strings and tender seeds, a raita out of the course ends and a Kootu ( a stew with lentils)with the rest of a snake guard. Pretty good when you think that we had a complete 3 course meal out of one snake gourd! Waste not, want not….
    I was surprised that your chutney did not involve grinding with tamarind though!

    That is truly impressive – to cover all the ‘regions’ of the thali when all you have at your disposal is one vegetable!

    This one is not a chutney in the ‘grinding’ sense, just a salty-spicy-crispy side with crunch to add flavour and texture.

  7. That dish looks too sexy to be made of waste :)… After reading the axe soup story i was hoping for the step where you actually throw out the peels… not a big fan of bottle gourd, so peels… hmmm… I will take your word for it. ๐Ÿ˜›

    ๐Ÿ˜† My MIL was no fan of the bottle gourd either – the only way she liked it was as raita. But the peel chutney is different – remember the peels are really just an excuse! You could always skip ’em! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. It looks really tasty Anita with the browned peels — I haven’t been moved to try a peel-chutney yet but I may do it now ๐Ÿ™‚ Loved the stone soup reference — have not heard that since I was a kid!

    I am not always inclined to take the effort that is needed to prepare the peels. But if I spy a pretty bottle gourd with the shiny peel, then I find myself wondering, “Do I really want to throw that?” And it does make a very interesting side to an Indian (preferably Maharashtrian) meal. And just BTW, you don’t taste the peels anyway, ๐Ÿ™‚ they just add bulk to make the coconut go further!

  9. Oh come now Anita, you say that as if you are absolutely oblivious to a barrage of cuisines yourself, which you most definitely are not! One has only to flip through your chiseled-in-concrete repertoire laid bare for the triple-“w”-world to see! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Those potato-peels/skins <em>are</em> great party-fare…and of course less-waistline-increasing-toppings could be dabbled with and dutifully dabbed…perhaps a bit of yoghurt-cheese and a smidge of tel-ish achaar? even <em>shenga chatni pittu</em>…

    A little knowledge… ๐Ÿ˜€ Since you don’t indulge much in aloo, maybe you could serve some aloo skins at your place? That would make another drool-worthy post. You have served a few drinks, and no hors d’oeuvres, Pel?

  10. I make a similar chutney but with ridge gourd (Dodka)and its been ages since I made any. So the next visit to the indian grocer will definitely bring home some dodka and doodhi

    Glad to have triggered the memory for you, Anupama. And let’s see your version too, please. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. A recyling Maharashtrian again! You know what I mean ;). Moms and Grannies have been so resourceful.We should be awarded the conservationist of this earth.
    This chutney is new to me. I should try it.

    Try it and tell me what you think. It does go very well with the everyday Maharashtrian meal.

  12. I skip the nibblies- it delays the effect of the drinks! ๐Ÿ™‚
    A few years ago, I read somewhere that the type of dish that a cook decides to bring to a “pot-luck” party (do you have this sort of thing in India, a gathering where each person/couple brings a different dish to pass?), tells much about the inherent personality of the person choosing to share it. For instance, those who bring a main course are nurturers by nature, self-less and giving…those who bring a dessert-course(yah, western custom I know), tend to enjoy attention- even secretly and meekly, say with an apple-pie, or obviously- say, with an exquisitely decorated cake. And then there are those who bring hors d’oeuvres…

    And those that bring hors d’oeuvres are…?!

    Though not traditionally Indian, we do have pot-luck parties…

    I have taken kheer to a Thanksgiving meal, and batata-wadas (home-made chips with home-made salsa, dhokla, and such stuff) to many parties…so what does that make me? Don’t say anything if it’s not nice! ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. What about that other Kashmiri sweet you’ve mentioned… ๐Ÿ™‚ You don’t need to worry about TLO posting a parallel right now… ๐Ÿ™‚

    You’ve taken salsa-y-totopos, kheer, potato vadas(??), and dhokla….to parties. You…are….
    indescribable… ๐Ÿ˜€

    Hmm…the one and half that still remains…And yes, Manisha is not around for some time…

  14. As a bengali, I remember those “peel” dishes well. Khosha chorchori and khosha bhaja. Your dish looks lovely!!

    Hey, Mallika – nice to see you here! So, are you going to give us the ‘secret’ recipe? ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I watched a TV serial… one of those DD ones in the HUm Log era… it was about Patthar Pulao… the stone soup story was about sharing… the patthar pulao one was on the lines of how a bunch of crooks cheated a town because of their greed. ๐Ÿ™‚ but the story left a lasting impression.

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