*** This post has been re-edited and re-photographed.***
Sometimes it is really interesting to know that how the two distinctly divergent culture shares a similar cuisine or how a particular dish which has evolved independently in two distinct country shares a common lineage. And the dolma is exactly the point in case.
For generations after generations people in Bengal (East India) relish dolma which they love to prepare on special occasions. Potol er dolma is a classic dish in Bengali cuisine whereby the stout pointed gourds are stuffed with prawns or scraped coconut mix with dry fruits or minced meat or boneless fish and even with vegetables like mushrooms or mashed potatoes and paneer. Dolma is very much rooted in Bengal. It never occurred to me that whether the word “dolma” itself has any presence in Bengali literature and language or not.
The word “dolma “has its root in Turkish language. As per Wikipedia “dolma “refers to any kind of stuffed vegetable which are hallowed or scooped out and are filled with minced meat, or vegetables. So the tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants and like all become dolma dishes. Dolma is the cuisine of former Ottoman Empire and neighboring regions and with time it invaded the Mediterranean region and south Asia too. So the Greeks, Portuguese, Libyan, Azerbaijan, Turks, Iraqis, Albanians, Armenians, Iranians, Syrians all have their own variant of dolma, be it stuffing the vegetables or wrapping with vine or cabbage leaves (which was actually known as “sarma” and later merged with dolma).
But how did the “dolma” reach the Indian shores? The answer perhaps lies in the fact that Calcutta, the then capital of India was the hotspot for seafaring maritime. So it may have come through Portuguese or Dutch or may have some Armenian connections (who made Calcutta as their second home) and with time infused with the Bengali cuisine by absorbing the local flavor and evolving into a new dish but retaining the original name. So in the present form the stuffed pointed gourds are being cooked in light onion ginger gravy so that it can be eaten with rice, the staple diet of Bengal and whole south Asia.
We are bringing you up the vegetarian version of potoler dolma which my grandma used to prepare without onion and garlic in it. Little bit of taking liberty in adding onion paste wont harm you. They goes very well with it and taste was fabulous.
- Potol(pointed gourd): 6-8 long and slender in shape
- Coconut grated: 1 cup
- Onion (medium): 1 sliced
- Raisins and Cashew nuts: ½ cup
- Cumin powder:1/2 tsp
- Green chilies : 1 tsp (finely chopped)
- Cumin paste (made out of roasted cumin seeds): 1 tbsp
- Ginger paste: 1 tsp
- Onion paste: 2 tbsp (optional)
- Red chili paste: ½ tsp (if it is very spicy)
- Garam masala paste: 1 tsp
- Bay leaves: 1 or 2
- Cardamom: 3-4
- Oil: 2-3 tbsp or as required
- Salt and Sugar to taste
- Water: ¾ cup
- Wash the potol or the pointed gourd and scrape the skin very lightly and carefully so as not to distort its shape.
- Now cut one end of the potol in a circular disc and big enough to insert the tail of teaspoon or your finger. Now with the help of a spoon or finger scooped out the seeds thoroughly and washed the inside of it. Smear it with salt and leave for few minutes.
- Cut half the onion into thin slices and make a paste of the other half (if using the onion paste).
- Dry roast the cumin seeds (2 tsp) and grind it in mortar and pestle and make a paste out of it with little water.
- For garam masala you can roast few cloves, cardamoms, black peppercorns and cinnamon and grind them together. Or else use the commercial one.
- Meanwhile heat some oil in a pan and lightly fry the sliced onion. Once it become translucent add the scraped coconut along with the raisins and cashew nuts. Fry them till the coconut slightly changes its color to light brown and add salt and sugar (skip sugar if coconut is sweet) to taste. Add the cumin and green chillies, fry them for a while and if requires add little water. Take it out from the pan and cool it to room temperature.
- Next add some oil in the pan and lightly fry the potols till they turn light brown in color. Take it out and cool it to room temperature.
- Stuff the potols up to its neck carefully and tightly with the above mentioned stuffing and keep them aside.
- Heat some oil in pan and add the bay leaves and cardamoms. Add the onion paste, ginger paste and fry for a while. Next add the cumin paste, red chilli paste, garam masala and saute them. Adjust the seasonings and add little water. Put the stuffed potols in it and simmer on low heat till the gravy thickens.
- Serve the potoler dolma or dorma with plain white rice or pulao.
Instead of pointed gourd, you can try this recipe with zucchini too.
For vegetarian : try it also with crumbled paneer or tofu along with diced capsicums and potatoes seasoned well with cumin and garam masala and red chilli powder.
For seafood lovers : You can stuff the potols / pointed gourd with shrimps / prawns and they taste simply outstanding. Following this recipe, add some fried shrimps along with coconut and garam masala and stuff the potols / parwals.
Egg-eaterians: following the same recipe eggetarians can try it with scrambled eggs coupled with stir fried diced capsicums, tomatoes and potatoes minus the coconut and seasoned with black pepper powder.
For fish-y people: you can try it with boneless fish, crumbled it and stir fry it with whole spices like cinnalmon and cloves, subtract the coconut, add some fried onions along with ginger and garlic cloves, chilli powder and stuff the gourd.
For meat lovers : you can add the ground meat or keema seasoned well with garam masala, red chilli powder, cumin powder. Heat some oil and fry the onions, garlic cloves and ginger till the rawness disappear. Add the meat / keema with above mentioned spices, saute for few minute and cook on low heat till done.
Sending this plate of stuffed pointed gourd / potol / parwal to the event:
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