Chingri Die Patoler Dolma

9:50 PM


On hot summer mornings when the Sun would go up and try to scorch us all alive, She would prevent us from going out.

'Kalo hoye jabi, tor maa ke takhon ki bolbo" (you will tan, what will I answer to your mother'), was her argument. An utter lie, as Maa would be the last person to worry about her kids turning a few shades darker in the sun. But there was no winning over Dida.

Soon the disheartened us would scatter and find something to do around the house. Some would read and reread the storybooks from the huge glass fitted bookcase, some would play and some would sit with Dadu to listen to the stories of his life as a Forest officer. But I would sulk,  Sulk silently for a long long time. The opportunity of playing with T across the pond was too good to let go. especially those salt marinated lime and mangoes that Baroma would sun during this time.  The thoughts will pour and I will sulk some more.

Dida knew it.
She also knew how to keep us occupied.
once she would settle down in the kitchen, she will call for me...
I reluctantly will peep through the black wooden door to find her sitting in the middle of the huge kitchen, all ready to start cooking. Her white saree crumpled from all the work, face glistening from the heat of the fire yet She would smile at me and direct me to the corner. Where freshly washed patols are heaped on a basket with a steel spoon balancing on it.

'Tor moto keu khol banate parena. chotpot kore de, Chingri macher Dolma habe aj.'  (no one is able to scoop and make a casing from pointed gourd. Hurry, will prepare Dolma today)

I don't remember how I felt back then. But I loved sitting in her kitchen, engulfed in the myriad aroma wafting from her pots and pans. She would talk to Bhotur maa, the house help and instruct her to maintain the flame by adding or taking out firewood.
I would sit on the floor and meticulously scoop out each and every Patol, heaping the innards on a plate to be used in the stuffing. No, nothing was wasted in her kitchen.

During lunch she would make it sure to let everyone know who scooped the patols. Her way to makeup, her way to end our fight on a delicious note.

Yesterday in the market the fresh firm patols which according to Dadu were the best for Dolma made me remember all these. Nostalgia sure is the best flavour one can add to any dish. It never fails to bring the taste of home food back
Trying, failing and sometimes succeding in recreating the same taste and flavour.
And when you do, you sure need to document it. So here is my recipe for the Dolma. Just the way maa used to make it because I never got the chance to learn from Dida but she sure has left a legacy and am glad to follow at least a part of it.

*if you want a niramish (pure vegetarian) recipe of Dolma please see THIS POST.

Chingri mach die patoler Dolma
(Dolma with prawn stuffin)
(serves 4)

Ingredients:
Patol/ pointed gourds: 8-9

For the stuffing:
The scooped out seeds and flesh of the patol.
Prawns: 400 gms (remove the heads)
Onion: 1 large. chopped 2/3 cup (lightly packed)
Ginger paste: 1/2 tsp
Freshly scraped coconut: 1/4 cup
Cumin paste or powder: 1/2 tsp
Green chilies: 2-3 or more
Chili powder: 1/3 tsp
Turmeric
Salt
Oil: 2 tsp
Bengali Garam masala powder: 1/4 tsp

Gravy:
Bay leaf: 1
Whole garam masala: 1 green cardamom, 1" piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves
Onion: 1 large
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Cumin paste/powder: 1 tsp
Green chilies: 2-3
Chili powder: 1 tsp
Tomato: 1 medium
Yogurt: 1/4 cup
Turmeric
salt
Bengali Garam masala powder: 1/3 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp

Oil: 4 tbsp + more for shallow frying the patols,

Method:
Casing:
Start by preparing the patols. Make sure the Patols feels hard when pressed, are thin and long. Start by cutting one end. Use the back of a steel spoon, the thin ones as in the picture to scoop out the seeds and flesh. Do it bit by bit or the patol will break. Make sure the sides are not very thin or it might burst open or crack while cooking. Repeat and finish the rest similarly.
Place them in a big bowl of salted water. Keep aside.
Roughly pound the seeds and flesh and keep aside.

Take the patols and drain them well. take some salt in your finger and put it inside the casing and apply on the sides.

Heat enough oil to shallow fry and fry them till lightly golden on all sides. Let it cook down then stuff with the stuffing.
from left clockwise: Pounded Prawns, Cooked Stuffing,
Stuffed Pointed gourd, fried Pointed gourd cases

Stuffing:
chop the cleaned prawns as finely as possible or you can whizz it in the mixer for a few seconds. Do not make a paste of it.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add slit green chilies. Once they start to splutter add the chopped onion. I do not chop this onion very fine rather keep a few bigger pieces to add texture. Once the onion is transparent add the ginger paste and cumin paste mixed with a tbsp of water. Cook this on low with salt, turmeric, and chili powder. Once the oil starts to ooze add the pounded patol seeds. Cook on medium till it dries out. Next, add the chopped prawns. Mix quickly or they will start to lump up. Mix and cook on medium. Adjust seasoning and once the juice dries up add the coconut. Mix and take off from the heat. Sprinkle the garam masala powder and let it cool down a bit.

Stuffing the patol:
Carefully stuff each patol. I like to fill them tightly but do not press too hard or the casing will break. Using a toothpick, secure the cut end of the patol as shown in the picture. One toothpick is enough.

Gravy:
Heat 3 tbsp oil and once its hot add the bay leaves and pounded whole garam masala. Let it release the aroma for a few seconds then add the finely chopped onion. Fry on low with a pinch of salt. Also, add the chili powder for the gravy to have a reddish hue. Cook till it turns golden brown. Add the ginger paste, cumin-coriander paste/ powder mixed with 3 tbsp water. Add Turmeric and cook till oil starts to ooze at the sides.

Next, add the tomato again cook it on medium till it's mushy and oil starts to ooze. Next Keep the flame at very low and add the beaten curd. Mix well and then cook till the spices are mixed through with the yogurt. Cook some more till you see oil floating on top. 

Now add 3/4 cup of water, Add the sliced chilies. Mix and adjust the seasoning by adding more sugar, salt, and chili powder. Bring it to a boil. If you have any stuffing left, add it to the gravy too. 
Carefully place the patols in it and cover. Keep the flame on medium and let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Then carefully turn the patols and cook till you are happy with the consistency of the gravy. We do not like it runny so added 3/4 cup of water you might want to add more.

Make sure there is enough gravy though as the gravy will dry up a little on cooling.
Taste test and then sprinkle the garam masala on top. Keep covered for a few minutes and then serve with hot rice.

A Homemaker's Notes:

  • The kind of patol you use for this should be tender and fresh. The seeds should not be too matured or rather should be tender too. The inside should be white or light green, not yellow. To check press the patol by pressing them, it should be firm to touch and the skin should be pale green.
  • Sometimes on cooling, the gravy might get a little dry. Just add a few spoonfuls of water and reheat again. 

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