A fascinating thing about food is how surprising it can be. I haven’t been able to completely write off a vegetable even once; there is always a recipe that makes it delicious. Recently, while picking out tomatoes from pizza, a friend swore she could make me have them willingly. I scoffed; I live on tomato rasam and still don’t eat a single piece of tomato. A week later, she sent me tomato gojju. Paired with chapati, the gojju wielded all kinds of flavours, sweet, tangy, and sour, to make me fall in love with tomatoes. It worked and how.
Thus began my exploration into the flavoursome world of gojjus, which are thicker than curries and a delight for tastebuds. There's a burst of sweetness that smoothly blends with a tinge of sourness or tanginess, depending on how you cook it. Although there are many well-known gojju recipes from Karnataka, such as mavina (mango) and bendekayi (okra) gojjus, it was never really made at home. The more you look into it, the more it feels like any vegetable or even fruit (such as pineapple) can be turned into a gojju.
Here are simple but flavour-packed gojjus that might just make you love all kinds of vegetables.
With ‘bitter’ in its name, this vegetable never really had a chance. Turning it into a delicious gojju is one way of truly enjoying bitter gourd. Chop the bitter gourd into tiny pieces, add turmeric and keep it aside. Once the gourd releases water, dry it and saute it with a little oil. In another pan, roast sesame seeds and when they splutter, add red chillies, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds and white sesame seeds. When they turn a little brown, add grated coconut and saute for a minute. Grind this into a fine paste.
Add tamarind water to the roasted bitter gourd slices, along with jaggery and salt. Let it cook until the jaggery turns into a syrup-like texture. Add the paste into this, water as needed and cook until done. There won’t be much bitter left when you serve this.
For this dish, cut the brinjals into small pieces and soak them in water to prevent browning. In a pan, heat oil or ghee and saute the brinjal pieces along with salt and turmeric. To this, add a bit of water and cook until they soften. Once cooked, add tamarind extract, jaggery powder, and cut green chillies and mash them well. You can also grill the brinjal pieces, take off the skin and mash it. To this add salt, jaggery, tamarind pulp, and green chillies and mix them well. This can be served with rice or chapati.
Similar to bitter gourd and okra gojju, pumpkin is cut into pieces and sauteed with salt and turmeric powder. To this, add the tamarind extract and jaggery and let the pumpkin cook until it softens. Meanwhile, in another pan, saute sesame seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, and fenugreek seeds until they turn golden brown. Then, grind them along with grated coconut and water. After the pumpkin pieces are cooked, add the paste and let it simmer for a bit. When done, top it off with a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves.
The base of making gojju remains similar to most vegetables. Gojjus can also be made using raw mango and yellow cucumber. One of the must-try gojjjus is the tamarind gojju, which differs a little from the rest. To make this, the star ingredient, the tamarind pulp, is cooked with whole spices such as mustard and fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and red chillies. Along with jaggery, rasam powder is added to the pulp and cooked until it turns attains a thick syrup-like texture.
There are many ways to make a gojju, with vegetables, fruits, and pulps. During the rainy season, a good bowl of gojju might just be the warm delight that one needs.