Recently I have been delving deep into my family reportoie of vegetatiran recipes as, hailing from a family where meat dishes were always the hero, it was tough to find many vegetarian winners. However, there was place for one unassuming vegetarian dish on our dining table – the loki (bottle gourd) kofta.

A modest green gourd, with neither intensity nor excitement to boast, it is however a silent carrier for such flavour. This is a treasured family recipe that finds its origins from my Dadi’s (paternal grandmother) kitchen. It has had much of a journey through time, from being dictated to my mother and jotted down on the back of a school notebook back in the day to a recent exchange with my phuppo (aunt) on social media; it is one of those recipes I believe will find it’s way to my daughter’s ‘bottom drawer’ through maybe an even more new age method of storage.

As recipes do this one too has taken on different nuances along the way. I have added a few ingredients to the original list, making it my own yet the base is true to my Dadi’s recipe. Family recipes I believe, must adapt with era and location, but must always remain authentically true to heritage, so now I usually substitute the loki with courgette or squash, whatever is in season.

Combining grated vegetables with a few simple spices creates a much satisfying kofta than one dimensional mince creates. It can be added to a curry leaf scented tomato sauce (as here) and served with rice, or added to a wrap with sauces and salad and even eaten as fritters with a spicy dip.

Sumayya’s vegetarian kofta curry:

Serves 4 people – Takes 30 minutes to prepare

For the kofta:

1 large bottle gourd, peeled and grated (or courgette)

2 tsp dried methi leaves

1 or 2 thin green chilli, chopped finely

2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

5 mint leaves, chopped finely

3/4 tsp powdered ginger

1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

Salt to taste

2 – 3 tbsp chickpea / gram flour

Fresh tamarind if possible, a small half teaspoon piece to place in middle of each kofta

100 ml vegetable oil

For the tomato curry leaf sauce:

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp each of crushed garlic and grated ginger

5-8 fresh curry leaves

4 medium juicy tomatoes, chopped finely

1 tbsp tomato puree

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp red chilli powder


1.To make the kofta: Peel and grate the bottle gourd squeeze out all the water by pressing between palms of your hands until all the moisture is gone. Place in a bowl, mix together with chilies, methi, powdered ginger, coriander, red chilli and salt, until combined.

2. Start adding gram flour one tablespoon at a time to the grated gourd and keep mixing with your hands till the mixture becomes a little thicker and forms a ball easily (the secret is the amount of gram flour you add, so you may not need all of it will depends on how much of the moisture you took out of the gourd earlier – as too little and the koftas might break, too much and they will be too hard).

3. As soon the mixture is ready take about tablespoon of the gourd/courgette mixture and flatten it in your hand. Add a piece of tamarind in the middle and shape it in small golf size balls.

4. Heat oil in a frying pan, and fry on medium heat to a golden brown and drain on kitchen paper

5. To make the sauce: Heat the coconut oil in a saute pan, once hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds and when they splutter add the onion, ginger and garlic. Garlic, cook this off for about 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add curry leaves and once they splutter add chopped tomatoes and puree. Add a little water, cover the pan and cook on a low heat.

6. Allow this to cook until oil rises to the top of a thick tomato sauce, this takes about 15-20 minutes and some patient stirring every now and then. Once ready, pop in the koftas and simmer for 5-7 mins covered on a low heat. Serve hot with rice.