Lazeez Lauki

I had been eyeing this recipe for sometime now but kept putting it off thinking it's too complicated and time consuming. When Lavi announced RCI-Lucknow, I finally took the plunge. The lauki is filled with a delicious stuffing and simmered in a mixture of onion paste and spiced yogurt for a little taste of heaven!

Lazeez Lauki

RCI is an event started by Lakshmi and hosted by Lavi this month with Lucknawi food as the theme. The Nawabi food of Lucknow is royal indeed with generous use of rich foods like khoya, cream, ghee, saffron, nuts, dry fruits etc in many of their dishes. This Lazeez Lauki again comes from Dastarkhwan-e-Awadh, a cookbook dedicated to Awadhi cuisine. I adapted the recipe to use the ingredients I had in hand and substitited where necessary. I have used paprika and turmeric for color. Recipe calls for saffron and kewra water, both of which I skipped. I'm sure that would've added a whole new dimension to the flavour. Recipe also has khoya for stuffing but I used paneer instead. I've used garam masala in place of the roasted and ground spices that the original recipe had. I've tweaked and taken short cuts here but I think it was still the longest time I've taken to prepare a curry! But the lauki was still very lazeez! :)


Bottle gourd

For stuffing:
1/4 cup crumbled paneer (recipe calls for khoya)
2 tbsp cashewnuts, chopped and roasted
1 tsp yogurt
salt to taste

For grinding:
2 onions, chopped and fried till golden brown
1 tbsp poppy seeds, roasted

1 cup yogurt, beaten
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tbsp ghee/oil
salt to taste

Wash and peel the gourd. If too long then cut into two halves (I used just a half). Remove the pith with a knife. Prick the outside uniformly with a fork. Apply a teaspoon of salt all over and keep aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the finely sliced onions in ghee to a golden brown and grind to a paste along with the roasted poppy seeds. If too dry, add a little yogurt to help with the grinding.
Prepare the stuffing by frying the cashewnuts in some ghee. Mix it in with crumbled paneer, 1 tsp yogurt, salt and keep aside.
Pat the gourd dry and fry in the ghee previously used. Evenly brown all over. Drain ghee and remove. Fill the gourd with the prepared stuffing.
In the yogurt, mix the onion/poppy seed paste, garam masala, red chilli powder, paprika, turmeric and salt & blend well. I had some leftover stuffing that I added in the mixture, which made the sauce chunky. Heat the mixture in the pan, along with the stuffed gourd. Cover with lid and cook on low for 30 minutes, until the gourd is cooked through.
Serve hot on a platter, garnished with coriander. Carve round slices while serving. Tastes delicious with chapati or warqui paratha.

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