So if you are not from Kashmir, and if you have been following my blog, then you know by now, hopefully, that when I say Yakhni, (or Yakhyin in Kashmiri) I do not mean what most people in North India/ Pakistan mean when they use that word. The north Indian Yakhni is basically a broth. The Kashmiri Yakhni is a mild, creamy, yoghurt-y base, used mostly to make the always amazing lamb yakhni, but – and here’s where it’s beauty lies – you can make a Yakhni with pretty much anything. Alle, or doodhi, or bottle gourd is a Kashmiri favourite to do the Yakhni magic on. Aubergines too. But let’s stick with Alle for the time.
I must confess, this was the first time in many many years that I bought alle, because, well, at first sight it isn’t the kind of vegetable that screams out to your imagination, is it? Oh and I have lived through enough excruciating North Indian summers (first in Ludhiana, then Delhi) to develop a sort of an exasperation, for lack of a better word, for any of the lauki/tinde/doodhi family of vegetables. (For those of you who don’t know, the summers are so so hot that nothing grows, and the only fresh vegetables you get for what seems like months and months are these – so by the time monsoon brings its rainbow coloured bounty, everyone is thoroughly sick of tinde ki sabzi. Fact.)
But if I go a little further back than my time in the north Indian plains, back to my childhood in Srinagar, alle – on their own, as a yakhni, with lamb – were much loved in my mum’s kitchen, and so good too.
So anyway, the point is I’m going to hopefully start doing more with these beauties.
Should we begin with the Yakhni? Good.
For the Yakhni:
500 gms of Natural Greek Yoghurt
For the Alle (Bottle Gourd)
2-3 medium sized bottle gourds – scrape the skin off, split them lengthwise, get rid of the fluffy seedy bit inside, and then cut in to chunks.
3 small shallots, finely sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 inch of cassia stick
1-2 black cardamoms
2-3 green cardamoms
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional -I don’t use any turmeric in any Yakhni, but you could if you want to)
1/2 teaspoon of fennel powder (optional)
So you know how to get the yoghurt cooked down for our Yakhni, dont you? (You dont! You havent read my original Yakhni post? For shame! Click. Now.) So let’s assume our yoghurt is all cooked down, and ready.
What you need to do next, is fairly simple. Take a wide, thick bottomed pan, and put it on a high flame. When the pan is hot add a good glug of oil. And when that is hot, add your bottle gourd chunks. Fry them for a few minutes on the same high flame, stirring gently. Then sprinkle a bit of salt all over them, cover and bring the heat down to medium. What this will do is make the bottle gourd chunks sweat. Let them cook in their own juices till everything is almost dry. Do check from time to time to make sure your alle are not getting scorched – you might have to adjust the heat accordingly. Now once the vegetables are all dry and you can see oil in the pan again, what you do is let them fry for a couple of minutes – it’ll all be fairly soft by now, so be careful not to turn it in to a blooming mash!
Next take the bottle gourd chunks out of the pan, in to a bowl. In to the same pan, add 2 of your sliced shallots, and fry them, on a medium flame, till they are translucent and soft. Then add the crushed garlic, and fry it all together for a minute or so. Next put all your whole spices in, and fry them for a minute or two. Once the spices are nice and fragrant add your turmeric and fennel powders, if using them. Stir everything together. Now return the fried bottle gourd chunks to the pan, and stir carefully making surely all your chunks are coated with all those lovely spices. Fry everything together for a minute or two. To this then add, say about a cup of water, maybe a bit more depending. Mix everything up and bring it to boil on a high flame.
At this stage all you need to do is add your prepared Yakhni yoghurt reduction, and stir everything together. Check for salt.
This last step here is optional but will take this up a significant notch. Or ten. In a small frying pan heat up a tablespoon of oil. Add your one remaining sliced shallot, and fry on a high flame till the shallots are completely caramelised and almost black. Take your pan off the heat, and pour this tempering all over your Yakhni.
Uff. The Beauty.
Garnish with dried or fresh mint.
That’s right, you are now officially in love with doodhi. I know.