Sweet gourd, almond and plantain soup

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes


By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

  • About

Traditionally cooked in India with lentils, drumsticks – also known as horseradish tree or moringa – resemble very stiff long, thin cucumbers. Their ridged fibrous exterior needs to be peeled off, which is best done with a small sharp knife, as you would string runner beans. Sweet gourd resembles a ridged elongated cucumber. Its cousin, the bitter gourd, or kerala, needs to be salted before cooking to remove the bitterness, but sweet gourds are subtle and mellow You can replace the drumsticks with okra and the sweet gourd with cucumber. If you can’t get plantain, then replace it with a ripe banana and a small peeled potato, which will provide both starch and sweetness. A more exotic vegetable soup I can’t think of!


  • 2 white onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 thumbs of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 100 g chopped blanched almonds
  • 1 ripe plantain (it must be ripe, with a brown skin), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 drumstick, prepared as described, then gently bashed down its length and cut into 6 equal lengths
  • 1 sweet gourd
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • small handful of coriander leaves


Sauté the onions, garlic, ginger and seeds in 3 tablespoons of the oil to caramelize lightly. Add the almonds and plantain, and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind and 900 ml water, and bring to the boil. Add the drumstick and simmer rapidly, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Peel the gourd and cut into 4 lengthways, then remove the seedy core (a few seeds left intact are fine). Cut the pieces into chunky dice, then sauté in 1 tablespoon of the oil until softened, then add the lemon juice and take off the heat.

Fry the desiccated coconut in the remaining oil over a gentle heat until golden and remove from the heat.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the drumstick pieces and then purée the soup. It shouldn’t be too fine as you want a bit of texture.

To Serve

Divide the soup between 6 bowls and spoon on some of the sweet gourd, coconut and coriander. Stick a drumstick piece into each bowl of soup and get your guests to gently suck on it as they eat.