Stuffed Lauki Lucknowi

Ed: The front page photo is unrelated, except for the vegetable used. As the recipe says, you need a different shape than shown.

Lucknow, the city of nawabs and nawabi chefs is as famous for its etiquette (‘tehzeeb’) as it is for its inimitable, mouth-watering cuisine. The origins of several popular dishes of today may be traced to the nawabi chefs of Lucknow.

Rajeev was posted to Kanpur for three years. Lucknow being so close at hand we found ourselves exploring the city and discovering the delights it had to offer. The recipe below has keema stuffed into lauki and covered with a fragrant gravy fit for the kings who consumed it. I had to connive and trick the chef into revealing the recipe to me in bits and pieces.  One elusive ingredient here and another there…

For the outer casing you will need:

  • 1 large un-curved Lauki
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

For the stuffing you will need:

  •  ½ kg keema (minced goat/lamb meat)
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, chopped fine
  • ½ cup green coriander leaves, chopped
  • 10 almonds, cut into slivers
  • 20 seedless raisins or kishmish (dried sweet green grapes)
  • 1 tsp garam masala (roast lightly together and grind to a powder  2 pieces of mace, a tiny piece of nutmeg,5 black pepper corns, 3 cloves, a small piece of cinnamon , ½ tsp of cumin seeds and 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds –  use only 1 tsp of this powder.  )
  • 1 tbsp sugarcane vinegar (vinegar made from fermented sugarcane juice)
  • 1 large boiled potato, mashed (to bind the mixture)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for sautéing

For the gravy you will need

  • 3 tbsps onions, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic  paste
  • ½ tsp red kashmiri chili powder (this chili powder is not as hot as its cousins and is also known as Deghi Mirch
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup cream
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsps clarified butter (ghee)
  • Salt to taste

For the garnish you will need:

  • Julienned Ginger
  • A pinch of saffron soaked in a tbsp of milk and I suspect rose water was sprinkled over too, though the chef left that out when he explained the recipe to me.
  • Gold or Silver leaves (varq)

To Cook and Assemble
The outer casing

  1. Peel the lauki and cut out one straight six inch block.
  2. Scoop out the seeds and prepare a hollow log.
  3. Coat lightly with turmeric powder and salt and keep aside in a vertical position for ½ an hour to flavor it and drain out the water.
  4. Heat oil in a large flat pan and fry the lauki log on a slow fire until evenly golden on all sides  and the lauki is cooked.
  5. Keep aside on absorbent paper.

The Stuffing

  1. Heat oil and add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies.
  2. Saute for two minutes until the onions soften.
  3. Add the keema and sauté for five minutes or until the keema is cooked.
  4. Put in the mashed potato, salt and vinegar and stir well.
  5. Finally sprinkle the garam masala, the almonds the raisins and the chopped coriander leaves.
  6. Mix and set aside.

The Gravy

  1. Pour the ghee into a pan and add the finely minced onion.
  2. Saute until it turns golden brown.
  3. Add the ginger-garlic paste.
  4. Saute for two minutes and add the tomato puree with the kashmiri chili powder, sugar and the salt.
  5. Sauté on a low fire until the ghee floats on top and the tomato sauce is cooked.
  6. Now add the cream and stir lightly.

To assemble, stuff the lauki log tightly with the keema mixture. Place it in the gravy and heat through, carefully turning the log over, making sure the stuffing remains in place.

To serve, place the log on a serving dish and pour the gravy over the log. Garnish with the ginger juliennes, the saffron mixture and gently place the gold/silver leaf (varq) over it.

Note: Vegetarians may substitute the keema with paneer or yam.

Vinny

a trained singer and an excellent cook. She has been cooking at home for the last 32 years and is now a restauranteur. An Army officer's wife, she has travelled the length and breadth of India and has been exposed to many of the numerous variations of Indian cuisine. She likes to experiment and is particularly fond of breakfast food and meats.