Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Cheese Gourd.

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.


Gypsyhearts said...

Honestly? Anything with bacon and cheese sounds great ... bring on the gourds!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved that word: calabash.

Any glum day can be greatly improved by walking around and saying (in the deepest, most resonant tones possible) "Calabash! Calabash!", every so often.

Try it. You'll see.