Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Stuffed potol (pointed gourd) in a rice gravy
Potol’er dorma is a Bengali delicacy that is said to have originated from the dolmeh or dolma of Ottoman cuisine. Some say that Armenian traders brought it to Bengal, where it evolved into its current form. A typical potol’er dorma recipe involves stuffing pointed gourd with lentils, coconut, dried fruits, cottage cheese, fish or meat, and then stewing in a sauce.
This particular variation is a family favourite, where a firm white fish like bhetki, or rohu, is used for the filling, along with small shrimps for flavour. You can use any non-fatty fish you like, as long as it does not have too many bones. This is a perfect recipe to serve with some plain rice, or pulao when you want to impress guests.
For the filling
100 gms bhetki fillet (Asian seabass or Barramundi)
75 gms prawns
40 gms (4 tbsp) mustard oil
10g (6–8 pcs) cashew nuts
100 gms (2 medium) onions (sliced)
10 gms (6 to 8 cloves) garlic (minced)
40 gms (1 medium) tomato
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric
5 gms (1 tsp) ginger paste
10 gms (10–12 pcs) raisins
3 pcs green chillies (finely chopped)
5 gms (¾ tsp) salt
10g (2 tsp) sugar
For the gravy
400 gms (10 large) potol
175 gms (2 large) potatoes
30 gms (5 tbsp) mustard oil
2 pcs dried red chillies
2 pcs bay leaf
2 pcs cardamom
2 pcs cloves
1 pc cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
100 gms (2 medium) onion (paste)
10 gms (6–8 cloves) garlic (paste)
3 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp yoghurt
1 tbsp charmagaz (mixed melon seeds)
¼ cup cashew nuts
2 pcs green chillies (slit)
12 gms (2 tsp) salt
18 gms (1 tbsp) sugar
200 ml (1 cup) hot water
1 tbsp ghee
¼ tsp Bengali garam masala (dry-roasted powder made of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon)
This dish is made with a special kind of jumbo potol (pointed gourd), meant especially for dorma. They are large enough to allow us to scoop out the insides and stuff it generously, and its walls are thick enough to handle all the scraping, stuffing, frying and simmering in the gravy.
We’re using bhetki fillet in the stuffing, but you can go ahead and use any large non-fatty fish that you find. Alternatively, instead of fillet, you can also use fish with bones. Just remember to remove them while shredding the fish later.
Step 1: Preparing the Potol (pointed gourd)
Wash the potol well and scrape out the outer gritty layer. You are not peeling the potol, simply scraping off the outermost layer.
Chop off the broader end of the potol, about half an inch from the top. Don’t throw away the ends.
Now, using the back of a spoon, scoop out the inner flesh and seeds as best as you can. (You can save the insides and grind them to a smooth paste, to use in the filling.)
Coat the potol shells and the caps thoroughly in salt.
Heat 2–3 tbsp mustard oil, and fry the shells on high heat until brown on all sides. Set aside.
Once all the shells are fried, fry the caps too, and set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the filling
Marinate the fish and prawns with a little salt. Fry them in oil, about 30 seconds each side. Set aside.
Use half the sliced onions to make birista (fried onions). When they start to turn brown, remove them from the oil and spread to cool.
(To make birista, you would need at least 2 to 3 large raw onions, sliced uniformly thin. Pat them dry. Heat oil in a pan, till it is quite hot. Drop the sliced onion in batches. Fry till golden - gives a sweet, caramel flavour. Remove, drain on paper towels. Can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for a week or so.)
In the same oil, fry the cashew nuts too. Once golden, set them aside.
Now, add the remaining onions to the pan, and sauté them on medium heat until softened (about 6 minutes)
Add garlic paste and continue frying.
Add red chilli and kashmiri red chilli powders directly to the pan, and allow them to fry for 20 seconds before adding tomatoes.
Once the tomatoes have softened, add the remaining spices: cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and ginger paste. Braise them on low heat, adding a splash of water when the pan dries out.
Meanwhile, separate the heads of the fried prawns and squeeze out their juices into the pan. Chop the prawns finely.
Shred the fried fish fillet using your hands.
Once the spices are well braised, that is when oil starts floating to the top, add the fish and prawns. Continue cooking until you have a dry mix.
Add the fried cashew nuts (roughly chopped), raisins (roughly chopped), and green chillies (finely chopped).
Mix everything together, remove the filling from the heat, and spread it on a plate to cool.
Once cool, stuff the fried potol shells with generous amounts of the filling. Cover the ends with the caps you saved, securing them in place with wooden toothpicks.
Step 3: Making the gravy
Before you begin, soak charmagaz and cashew in hot water.
Peel and cut the potatoes into wedges.
Heat mustard oil and fry the potatoes until they are golden (about 5 minutes). Set aside.
Temper the oil with dried red chillies, bay leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin seeds.
Add onion paste and fry on medium heat until it browns.
Add garlic paste and fry for a couple more minutes before adding the rest of the spices: powdered cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chilli and kashmiri red chilli.
Braise the spices, add splashes of water, until their raw smell goes away and oil starts floating to the top (about 10 minutes).
Add ginger paste and slit green chillies, and continue braising.
Meanwhile, grind the soaked charmagaz and cashew into a smooth paste.
Add it to the pan, along with beaten yoghurt. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Add 200 ml hot water. Also add salt and sugar at this stage.
Once it comes to a boil, drop the stuffed potol and fried potato wedges.
Simmer them on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until the potol and potatoes have softened.
Finish with ghee and Bengali garam masala. Cover and rest for 2 minutes before serving.
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