Friday, October 17, 2008

I love karela: Karela aloo

Karela is an acquired taste. It is supposedly good for diabetes and also removes toxins from the blood according to ayurvedic principles. Don't know if I believe that, but that's what they say. When you select your karela, you choose small, dark green, firm ones. Don't choose yellow ones (or with a lot of yellow spotting) or large sized ones. Here is karela aloo or bitter gourds with potato:

3 bitter gourds, slice into centimetre thin circles, poke out any hard yellow seeds from the circles, no need to remove the soft yellow seeds because they will soften, add 1 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp salt to a bowl of water, soak for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside
3 small quick cooking (not for baking) potatoes, slice into medium thin circles
1 heaping tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2-3 whole dried red Indian chilies (omit if you don't like heat)
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 inch chunk of tamarind pulp, seeds are okay---pick them out if you like or just pick them out when you eat your serving along with the bay leaf and cinnamon, break it up with your fingers into bits, do not soak, you will use it whole
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 tsp Indian red chili powder or cayanne
1 heaping tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
(if all of these powdered spices are too much trouble in terms of availability, you can just use 2 tbs of your preferred "curry powder" instead)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
2 tbs chopped cilantro
2 fresh green chilies cut into thin 1 inch strips, deseed if you want
2-3 tbs oil

You need a deep nonstick pot or wok with a lid for this.
Heat oil in wok or deep non-stick pot, when hot toss in cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, dried red chilies, cinnamon, bay leaf, and the bits of tamarind pulp. Stir around for a few moments to allow to sizzle, then stir in the turmeric and red chili powder. Quickly add in your potato and bitter gourd circles. Stir and coat with the spices, stir continously and add in the cumin and coriander powder. Lower heat and cover for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender and bitter gourd is cooked. Turn up the heat and toss for a few moments more at the end. The veggies should be lightly golden and crisp, not soggy. The spice paste should lightly cling to the veg. Do not add water during the cooking, or you will get a soggy result. Garnish with cilantro and green chilies. Serve with whole wheat flat bread and plain Greek style yoghurt on the side.
You will get a nice bitter, slightly sour from the tamarind, salty and spicy dish.

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