September 24, 2014

Hot'n'Sour Ash Gourd Soup

There are some vegetables that you take for granted as you get it in abundance, but then when you are in a place where you don't get it at all, that is when you really miss those simple pleasures in life. The ash-gourd, or the Kumbalanga as we call it in Malayalam (Poosanika in Tamil) is one such vegetable. Back home you use it almost every other day in a variety of ways. 

This time we decided to talk to our local farmer to grow some Indian vegetables that we really miss, especially eating them fresh from the farm. The list included okra, ash-gourd, long beans, bottle-gourd and ribbed-gourd.., and boy they did grow them really well. So back to the ash-gourds, they came up so well and we are having a wonderful time eating them, while also helping out our local farmer by consuming his produce. 

In Ayurveda and other traditional eastern medicine practices, ash-gourd is known to be used as a general tonic for its restorative properties. It is rich in many vitamins and minerals. It contains 96% water, making it a diabetic friendly and weight-loss friendly vegetable. (hint: make some fresh raw juice..) Ash-gourd is alkaline in nature and hence has a cooling and neutralizing effect on stomach acids, and as such used effectively for treating digestive ailments. Want any more reasons to include this simple vegetable in your diet :) ?

The ash-gourds grow really big and some of my friends were asking how they can cook it. There are endless ways you can cook ash gourd in Kerala cuisine. Pulissery (a yogurt and coconut based gravy), pachady (a semi cooked yogurt based salad), olan (ash gourd cooked in coconut milk), avial (a mix of veggies with spiced crushed coconut) and the list does not end here :). Today's recipe though is not a traditional recipe. It is a simple hot'n'sour soup which is really refreshing for a fall evening, and very suited to this simple vegetable. 

  • Ash gourd - 3 cups (cubes)
  • Tomato - 1 large
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt -as pepper 
  • Ghee - optional for drizzling
  • Lemon juice - optional for seasoning
  • Chopped cilantro - for garnishing

  • Peel the ash gourd, remove the seeds, and cut into cubes. Quarter the tomato.
  • Add the ash gourd cubes, tomato, 3 cups of water, pepper, cumin and turmeric powder to a soup pot (or pressure cooker). Cook till ash gourd is cooked well. 
  • Let it cool down, mash the veggies well with a wooden spoon or hand mixer. Strain thru a coarse strainer (idea is to get a semi clear soup).
  • Bring the clear soup back to the soup pot. Add salt and extra pepper if needed. Garnish with chopped cilantro and optionally drizzle drops of ghee.
  • Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice. 
  • Enjoy!!

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