Dipped in yoghurt

Being the eldest in the family always comes with responsibility. Ever since I was in class 4, I would help my mother in the kitchen.  But when I was 13, my mother fell sick and I had to take over the kitchen, since my father was working and the concept of maid wasn’t there. Whatever little I had learnt from her during those informal interactions, I followed them and food turned out to be decent. But that is how I discovered I love cooking. And more than that, I love serving.

We are Kashmiri Pandits and my father being in a government job, we stayed in Punjab for a very long time. But my parents never developed a liking for Punjabi food, so I grew up eating all Kashmiri cuisines; expect non-vegetarian food as I am a vegetarian by choice.

But this doesn’t mean that I don’t cook non-vegetarian food. The quality of a good cook is to be able to cook anything by heart. Tasting isn’t that important because if prepared with love, food is going to be delicious. To keep learn and improving, experimentation is the key. Even today, if I like something that I have eaten outside or at a friend’s place, I try to make it at home. Cooking is therapeutic for me and it gives me a great joy.

Yoghurt is an important ingredient in Kashmiri cooking and al Yakhni is one of the main dishes at any Kashmiri wedding. If guests are coming home, then it is always first on the menu. Easy to make and sumptuous, bottle gourd will taste heavenly. As told to Shilpa Raina by Pushpa Raina.

Al Yakhni (Bottle Gourd in yoghurt)

Ingredients
Bottle gourd: 2
Mustard Oil for frying: 5 table spoons
Saunf(Fennel) Powder: 2 teaspoons
Dry ginger powder: ½ teaspoon
Cardamoms: 5
Yoghurt: ½ kg
Salt: As per taste

Method:

1.Peel the bottle gourd and then cut it into thick round pieces.
2.Wash it and keep it till the water drains from it.
3.Heat oil in a wok and fry the pieces without burning them.
4.After frying, remove extra oil from and leave approximately two table spoons in the wok
5.Now add one glass of water in this oil and keep it on a low flame.
6.As the oil mixes with water, add cardamom, fennel powder, dry ginger power and salt and mix it.
7.Start adding fried bottle gourd pieces to it and stir continuously.
8.In a separate bowl, beat the yoghurt with water and slowly pour it into the wok. The important step here is to stir the bottle gourd continuously so that the yogurt doesn’t split. All this should be done on a high-flame.
9.Once the gravy attains thick consistency, lower the flame and let it boil for 5-10 minutes.
10.Serve it cold with hot basmati rice.

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