The inspiration for this recipe comes from the big fat Indian feasts that happen in the Eastern state of India, Bihar.
For most special occasions in our family home in Bihar, we outsource the cooking to a local caterer who has an army of cooks working for him. They come prepared, set up their temporary cooking stations in our big open backyard, slowly the gigantic pots and pans start coming out followed by jute sacks filled with fresh produce like onions, potatoes, pointed gourd (Parval) and other ingredients for the big feast.
If you are as crazy about food as I am, you’ll quickly realize that it is such a treat to watch! These seasoned cooks operate with ease, often engaging in a friendly banter, the topics covered range anything from the current price of locally sourced onions to the fate of the country post elections and sometimes world peace!
Their efficiency and skill is beyond doubt, exceptional! The one thing that I am always in awe of is how they estimate spices & salt when handling such large quantities of ingredients. There is no madness like you would normally witness in a commercial kitchen, even though the menu is usually quite extensive. The preparation and cooking is flawless and the food just seems to magically come together, on time! Of course, what we don’t see are the years of practice, planning and time management skills that have gone in to what seems like an effortless pursuit.
I took inspiration from the pointed gourd curry which I have had on many such occasions. The use of Kashmiri and Deghi chilli powder (easily available on amazon or your Indian stores) imparts a nice red colour as well as heat to the curry. I like to add a little yogurt in this curry which helps balance the heat from the chilli. The addition of yogurt to this dish may not be traditionally done, but I like the hint of tang and creaminess that it lends to the curry. Also please note that, traditionally, the potatoes and pointed gourds are deep fried. I am always on the look out for adapting traditional recipes to a more balanced form so that I can maintain their nutritional value, taste and ease of cooking. That totally does not mean that I never deep fry stuff or you shouldn’t either. Everything in Moderation – that’s my food mantra!
Recipe for Pointed Gourd and Potatoes Curry (Aaloo Parval sabzi)
- Serves: 6-8
- Time taken: 1 hour and 5 mins
- Preparation time: 20 mins
- Cooking time: 45 mins
Ingredients and Preparation:
Potatoes – 2 medium sized Golden potatoes (Bought from Asian store). Boiled firm, Cooled, Peeled and cut in large cubes (Keep cubes are similar in size to the pointed gourd).
Pointed Gourd (Parval / Potol) – 16-20 small pcs of tender, fresh pointed gourd. I do not discard the seeds if the pointed gourd is tender. Trim the ends, scrape it unevenly with a pairing knife and cut into halves.If the pointed gourd you get is bigger in size, cut them into 4. This will also reduce your cooking time in the final step.
Mustard Oil – 2 Tbsp (You can always use your regular cooking oil if you don’t have mustard oil)
Bay leaf – 1-2
Onions – 1 medium sized (I used Red onions from the Asian store, you can use yellow onions as well). Makes ¾ cup of this onion paste.
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Garlic – 5 cloves
Ginger – 1” thick pc
Thai or Indian green chilli – 1
Make a paste of ginger, garlic and Chilli (reduce the garlic if you do not like too much garlic in your food)
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Deghi Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp (skip the Deghi Chilli powder if you want to reduce the heat)
Tomato – 1 ½ roma tomatoes. I didn’t have those so I used 3 relatively big size cherry tomatoes (as in photo). Make it into a puree without adding water. It should yield around ½ cup of paste.
Yoghurt (thick): 1 Tbsp (skip for vegan version)
Garam Masala Powder – ½ tsp
STEP 1: The base of the curry: the Masala
- Heat a heavy bottom pan (wok/kadhai). Once hot, add 1 tbsp of mustard oil. Let the oil reach smoking point, then reduce heat and begin cooking.
- Add the bay leaf. Stir for a few seconds
- Next goes the onion paste, a pinch of salt, sugar and turmeric. Cook this mixture on medium-low heat.
- Once the onions start to lose its moisture it will become brownish. Continue to fry until it looks dry and comes together.
- Next, add the ginger+garlic+chilli paste. Fry on medium-low heat until all the raw smell of the masalas are gone and the masala looks dry-ish. Add more oil, if you need to. Or sprinkle a little water to prevent burning.
- Once the masala is ready, add the cumin powder, coriander powder and the Kashmiri as well as Deghi chilli powders (if using). Mix for another 2 mins
- Now add the tomato paste. Stir to combine and fry until oil separates and the raw smell of the tomatoes is gone!
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Add a Tbsp of water. Mix to cool off the pan, then add the yogurt. Give this a good mix until it is well combined. Cooling off the masala and the pan is important and will make sure your yogurt doesn’t curdle. Once the yogurt is well combined, you can turn the heat to medium and keep stirring until the oil separates from the masala
STEP 2: Preparing the vegetables, can be done along with STEP 1
- Meanwhile, since our masala (above) will take a good 15+ mins to come together, I make use of that time by preparing my vegetables.
- Heat another heavy bottom pan to lightly sear the vegetables.
- On medium heat, add 1/2 tbsp of oil, a pinch each of turmeric and salt. Stir it around occasionally until you start seeing a nice browning effect on parts of the skin. This should take a 4-5 mins. In a traditional feast, this is deep fried
- Once the pointed gourd is done, take them off the pan and keep aside. Repeat the process above with the cubed boiled potatoes but since our potatoes are already boiled, it should be done very quickly. Keep aside.
STEP 3: Combining it all
- On medium heat, add the prepared Pointed Gourd (from Step 1) to the prepared Masala in Step 1. Let this cook for a good 7-8 mins.
- Now add the Potatoes (from Step 2) and stir for another minute.
- Add 2 cups of hot water. Let it come to boil, then cover on low-medium heat for about 15-20 mins. Stir every 5 mins and cook this curry until the pointed gourd is cooked through. It should be soft and not crunchy. The curry can be of medium thickness but also note that if you keep it in the fridge, the curry thicken as it rests.
- When the curry has reached it’s desired consistency, finish it with a generous pinch of Garam Masala Powder and Ghee. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.
- An optional finishing touch is to add a final tadka of dry red chillies and some more chilli powder in ghee. I do that sometimes to finish the dish and for some added colour and heat.Relish this spicy curry as a main course for a weekend meal or a weeknight meal with Roti / Rice along with your favourite Dal (lentils).
- For best results, prepare this curry ahead and let it sit for a couple of hours before serving.
- This keeps well in the fridge and in fact it tastes even better the next day!
- In Bihar, we relish the left over curry the next day, as a side with Chooda (Flattened rice flakes), Dahi (Yogurt), a tiny pinch of salt and green chilli on the side. This is a very popular breakfast in Bihar!