Veggie peels, I feel, always appeal for them to be used. Not many times does that happen. Although, truth be told, the peels often hold shape, texture and taste, other than nutrients.
Now, I have been a big fan of bottle gourd peels. And specially, how they’d be cooked by my mother. I could easily finish my rice with it. Summers would be the time when Ma would make it and I’d voluntarily take some more from my parents’ plates as well. Many years later, I asked her for the recipe which she orated in 2 minutes flat. With that recipe in mind, (and one phone call later), this is my first attempt at making gourd peels that is called Bakla (pron.: bækla).
I saved the bottle gourd peels while cooking sambhar. I don’t use the peels in them, purely from a textural point of view. I saved about a cup of peels from one medium to big sized gourd. Chop up a cup and a half of onions, that being the ratio. And we are ready to cook.
Now, pan up on medium-to-high flame. Add in a couple of generous glugs of mustard oil. Let it heat up a little; don’t smoke it up. Add in good pinch and a half of mustard seeds and couple of dry red chillies. Swirl them around. Just when they are getting used to the space in the pan, add in the onions. Fry them nicely. Quick pro tip: do not fine chop the onions; instead julienne them. Or else the onions will get burnt while the peels will be undercooked. While the onions sweat, blanch the now-julienned gourd peels and keep them ready. Once the onions are nicely caramelized, add in the peels. There will be a new zeal in the pan, upon meeting the freshly blanched peels. Add salt to taste and big pinch of brown sugar. The last bit is the secret ingredient. Cook for about 7-8 minutes. Taste test. And you are done.
Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy your LD Bakla.