This creamy, mellow, bottle-gourd appetiser is one of the quickest shukto recipes, that can be cooked in under an hour with very little preparation.

In Bengali cooking, shukto refers to a wide array of mild, sometimes bitter, milky curries. It is usually served as an appetiser for lunch, just after shaak (greens) and before dal (lentils). It opens up the palate for the oncoming spicier courses. While the most popular shukto is the one made from a selection of vegetables—such as kachkola (raw bananas), sheem (flat beans), sweet potatoes, brinjal, korola (bitter gourd), and so on—the one we show you here is made of just lau or bottle gourd. In places where they are available, the tender stalks and shoots of the lau are also added to the curry.


COOKING TIME 35 minutes
YIELDS 6 servings
CALORIES PER SERVING 85 kcal


Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
750 g Lau (bottle gourd), along with tender shoots, if available
8 pcs Dal’er bori
35 g Ginger paste
10 g Poppy paste
20 g Vegetable oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
2 pcs Bay leaves
22 g Salt
20 g Sugar
25 g Milk
¼ tsp Maida (flour)
5 g Ghee

Equipment

  • Kadai | frying pan
  • Lid for the cooking vessel
  • Khunti | long spatula

Appliances

  • Grinder | sheel-nora (to make poppy paste)
  • Stove

Method

  1. Soak the poppy seeds in hot water for at least two hours. After that, grind them to a fine paste. When you rub some of the paste between your fingers, it should feel smooth, that is, the individual poppy seeds should not be discernable. The finer you grind the poppy seeds, the better the flavour.
  2. Peel the lau and cut it into 3-mm-thick matchsticks.
  3. Set a pan on medium heat and add in the lau along with half of the salt (about 10 g) and 30 g of water. Cover and allow the lau to steam for 8 minutes. This will give the vegetable a head start while cooking.
  4. Once the lau is soft remove it from the pan and reserve in a bowl along with the juices.
  5. Set the kadai back on the heat. Wipe it dry so that when you add oil to it, it doesn’t splatter.
  6. Heat 20 g vegetable oil. Once hot, drop the dal’er bori and fry them till they are golden. This should take about 20 seconds. Drain them from the oil and set aside.
  7. Before proceeding any further, mix 20 g water in the ginger paste and keep it ready.
  8. Temper the same oil with bay leaves and mustard seeds.
  9. Wait for the seeds to crackle before adding the ginger paste. Fry it for about 4 minutes.
  10. Next, add the steamed lau along with the reserved juices. Mix everything well.
  11. At this stage, also add the remaining salt (12 g) and all of the sugar. Also stir in the poppy paste.
  12. Let everything bubble for about 6 minutes on medium heat. If you find that juices are running dry, drop the heat or cover the pan.
  13. Break the fried bori into shards and add it to the shukto.
  14. Mix the flour into the milk and add that to the shukto too. The flour will help thicken the juices and allow them to coat the lau.
  15. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, after which add the ghee, cover, and rest before serving.

Served with