Pan-Fried Bottle Gourd Slices with Yogurt & Aromatic Spices

Ghia Yakhani

This Kashmiri delicacy is easy to make. The star of the show, the ingredient that makes it a yakhani, is the yogurt. The generous sauce packs tart flavors without looking curdled, thanks to the heavy cream. The juicy succulence of the tender squash is great over basmati rice.

Ingredients

  • pounds bottle gourd squash (see box)
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • ¾ teaspoon ground asafetida
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted (see Tips) and ground
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

Method

  1. Cut off and discard the stem and heel ends of the squash. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and the surrounding spongy mass with a spoon or a melon baller, creating firm-fleshed, pale green squash “boats.” Cut the squash boats crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. (When you get to the hollowed-out part, the slices will be thick at the ends but very thin in the middle.)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add about a third of the squash slices, arranging them in a single layer, and sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of the asafetida and 2 of the cloves over them. Cook until the slices are lightly browned and blistered on the underside, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip them over and let the other side blister and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the slices to a medium-size bowl and pour 2 cups of water over them. Repeat with two more batches, using the remaining oil, squash slices, asafetida, and cloves (don’t add any more water). Add the browned slices to the first batch. Stir in the salt.
  3. Return the squash and the salted soaking water to the same skillet, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Quickly whisk together the yogurt, cream, ginger, and black pepper. Pour this over the curry and stir once or twice. Continue boiling it vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the cloves if you wish, and stir in the cumin and cinnamon. Sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve.
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