While most of us run a rat race to catch the fast train to nowhere, try to get a seat next to the latest hotshot, and keep up with the Joneses, Ruskin Bond is perfectly content to have Friends In Small Places (the name of one of his books). And, so charming is his world in the hills of small town Dehradun that he has us all bowled over.

Are they true or just a figment of an immensely fertile imagination, these stories that enchant and capture the imagination of his audience, both young and old? He keeps us guessing. No guns and violence for this Bond though. For one thing’s for sure, he is the James Bond of tender feelings. His stories treat us to the fresh, cool air, simple ways of life, quirks, and delights of the people of his home in the hills. Ordinary folks, sometimes with extraordinary hearts filled with kindness. Or does Ruskin Bond spread wonderful vibes around him wherever he goes?

He must be a keen observer of human nature because he has so many stories to tell of everyday people around him. His dad who he adores, his wayward uncle Ken, murderer uncle Bill, the Lafanga tongawalla who is actually delightfully sweet to him, his aayaah, not to forget the maharani who lives on the very top of a palace and is in love with the humble gardener.

Bond has written more than five hundred books, beautifully bringing to life the spirit of life in the hills. He still writes at the grand old age of 85. He’s written his autobiography which is a must read. It’s called Lone Fox Dancing.

One of Ruskin Bond’s favorite dishes is kofta curry. Most probably he eats a non vegetarian kofta curry. Most probably too, he downs a beer or two with his kofta curry meal. Since I’m vegetarian I’m posting a recipe here of a vegetarian bottle gourd kofta curry adapted from a recipe by Tarla Dalal. It’s heart healthy and tasty too.

Bottle gourd Kofta Curry

This delightfully tasty kofta curry, is heart friendly too, with the koftas dunked in the curry with only shallow frying them. Eat them with hot parathas or plain rice.

For the koftas

  • 1 1/2 cups grated bottle gourd
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup bengal gram flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to shallow fry

For the curry

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilly powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Some finely chopped fresh coriander
  1. Squeeze the grated bottle gourd of all its water. Keep aside the bottle gourd water to add when making the curry.

  2. Put a pan on the fire. Put all the ingredients for the koftas into the pan and mix well and stir till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and a cooked aroma emanates.

  3. Remove the bottlegourd mixture from the pan and let it cool for a few minutes. Then divide the mixture into 14 to 15 oval shaped koftas.

  4. Heat oil in a flat pan for shallow frying. Put in the koftas and shallow fry on all sides. Keep aside.

  5. Put the teaspoon of oil in the pan and put on the stove. Add onions and fry till golden brown. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, coriander cumin powder and chilly powder and stir till the tomatoes are mushy. Let cool.

  6. Now make a paste of the onion-tomato mixture in the food processor.

  7. Put the two tablespoons of oil in a pan and put on medium heat. Put the cumin seeds into the oil. When they begin to sputter put the onion-tomato paste into the pan. Add the bottle gourd water and 1 1/2 cups more water and let the curry come to a boil. Now add salt and cornflour-milk mixture and cook for one minute. Add garam masala.

  8. Gently put in the koftas into the curry one at a time. Heat for not more than a minute. Sprinkle finely chopped fresh coriander. Serve hot.

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