The trusty old Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (c1870’s) came up with another surprise for me the other day –a recipe for soup made from the fruit of the cheese-gourd. I had never heard of it before, and immediately in my mind paired it with spaghetti squash to produce a fantasy dish - low-carb, low-fat totally vegan cheesy pasta.
Wrong. It appears that the cheese gourd gets its name from its shape, which is somewhat like a wheel of cheese, not its flavour. It is a type of bottle gourd or calabash – originating in Africa and one of the first cultivated plants, yet cultivated not for food but to make bottles, bowls, and pipes. Its Latin name describes it perfectly: Lagenaria siceraria comes from the words for ‘Florence flask’ and ‘dried’.
Very few recipes specify the cheese-gourd, particularly English recipes, confirming to me yet again to me what a lovely book is Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery. There are several nineteenth century recipes from American sources, such as this nice pair in The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement, 1831. I am sure you could substitute other squash quite successfully.
To make Soup of the Cheese Gourd.
Take the fleshy part of the gourd when ripe, and cut it into small pieces; put it into a pan with a small bit of butter, set it upon a slow fire until it melt down to a pure; then add milk in the proportion of half a gallon to i Ibs. of gourd; let it boil a short time with a little salt and sugar, enough to make it taste a little sweet; then cut some slices of bread very thin, toast it very well, and cut them into small dice; put them in a dish, and pour the pure over, and serve it up.
Cheese Gourd dressed in the Spanish Way.
When ripe, cut the fleshy part into slices about half an inch thick; score it across into small dice about half through one side of the slices; scrape a little of the fat of bacon, and put it into a saucepan, with a little parsley, shallots, and mushrooms, chopped very small, adding a little salt and pepper; put them on a slow fire to fry a little, and place this seasoning upon the cut sides of the gourd slices. Put the whole into a quick oven, with a little butter or olive oil; and, when baked a little, serve up the dish.
Let me know your thoughts on the cheese gourd, wont you?
Quotation for the Day.
The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe.
John Gould, Monstrous Depravity, 1963.