As I shave the parwals and remove their innards in preparation of my potoler niramish dolma, I cannot help but think of the influence the Armenians have had on the sociology-economic development, culture and cuisine of Bengal.
I am not a historian and would not pretend to be one either. But you don’t need to be one to observe the indelible impressions the enterprising and enlightened Armenians left on the canvass of the city they traded in and loved.
The Armenian College.
The Armenian Church, the earliest Christian church in the metropolis.
The 6th January Christmas celebrations.
The Armenian Ghat, with its grand pillars and elegant designs.
And the dolma – vine leaves and cabbage stuffed with rice and meat.
The gastronomic Bengali took the Armenian dolma and lovingly made it his own. They took their very own humble potol, diligently scooped out its guts and stuffed it with fish. Or lamb mince. And over a period of time, lentils and even paneer.
I make the vegetarian variant of potoler dolma this morning, fill my potol with a delectable lentil-raisin stuffing and make a delicious sesame flavoured curry to accompany my dolma.
So the next time you desire something different with the humble potol, do try my potoler niramish dolma – I guarantee you shall not be disappointed !!
Potoler Niramish Dolma (Parwal / Pointed Gourd with a Lentil Raisin Stuffing)
For the dal stuffing
- 1/2 cup chana dal
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 green chilli finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp roasted bhaja masala
- 3 tbsp coconut freshly grated
- 3 tbsp raisins soaked in water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt and sugar to taste
For the dolma
- 6-7 potol / parwal / pointed gourds
- oil for frying
For the curry
- 1 tsp shahi jeera
- 3 tbsp fresh tomato puree
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds ground to a paste
- 3 tbsp green chillies chopped
- 1 tsp garam masala powder
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp ghee
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Soak the chana dal for 4-5 hrs. Drain and blend to a smooth paste.
- Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is smoking hot, add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 chopped green chilli. Once they start to splutter, add 1 tsp of ginger paste and a pinch of salt. Fry for a minute or so and then add the dal paste.
- Saute for a few minutes, add salt, a pinch of sugar and little turmeric. Mix well. Keep cooking on a low flame till the dal paste starts to leave the sides of the pan. Take care that the dal doesn't stick to the bottom of the vessel.
- Add in the bhaja masala, the scraped coconut and the raisins and mix well and adjust the seasonings. Keep aside.
- Shave the parwal using a kitchen peeler, chop both the ends, about half an inch or so. Gently scoop out the insides of the parwal from one side using the bottom of a spoon, taking care that the parwal 'pocket' remains intact and is not ruptured, as in the picture. Heat oil and shallow fry the parwal 'pockets' till light brown. Keep aside and allow to cool.
- Now gently fill all the parwals with the dal stuffing. Keep aside.
- For the gravy, heat 1 tbsp oil, add the shahi jeera and allow to splutter. Add the tomato paste, ginger paste, turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chilli powder and cook over medium heat till the oil starts to separate from the masala.
- Add 1/2 cup of warm water, salt and sugar to taste and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Stir in the sesame paste, throw in the green chillies and mix thoroughly; gently place the stuffed parwals in the gravy and cook over a low flame for a further 5 odd minutes.
- Add a dollop of ghee, sprinkle garam masala powder and serve hot with plain rice.