Thursday, June 4, 2009
I love karela: Bittergourd stuffed with its own peelings
Karela, our bitter gourd, is an acquired taste. I suppose I have acquired the taste. Here is a recipe for bitter gourd which is shaved and stuffed with its own peelings. It is a good recipe for any time, but it is also a good party dish because it looks interesting and impressive.
Select smallish dark green bitter gourds for your cooking. This recipe is for 5 bitter gourds.
First, you need to prepare the bitter gourds. With a potato peeler, peel off all of the outer layer of dark green bumps. Shred any large peelings with your fingers. Add salt to water and submerge the bumbs in the salted water for a few minutes. Strain and set aside.
Make a length wise slit in your bitter gourds. If you have long ones, it is okay to cut them in half as well. Stick in your thumb or the a vegetable coring instrument and gouge out the innards and yellow seeds. Karela can take a licking and keep on kicking, so you don't have to be gentle while removing the innards.
Add 1tbs turmeric and 1 tbs salt to a deep bowl and fill the bowl with water. Submerge the peeled, gouged karelas in this water and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. In the meanwhile, you will prepare the peel stuffing.
About 1 cup of bitter gourd shavings
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 small onion chopped very finely
combination of garlic, ginger, and green chile pastes, adding up to about 1 heaping tea spoon all together
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder or less to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 heaping tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
salt to taste
one squeeze of lime
1 tbs oil or less
**Since bitter gourds vary in size, you will invariably need to adjust the seasonings based on the length and circumference of the karelas that you have at hand.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Add in cumin seeds and allow to sizzle. Add finely chopped onions to pan and allow them to cook on high heat until the are almost fully caramelized brown. Add in the ginger garlic chile paste. Allow to color. Add in bitter gourd peelings. Stir around for a moment, and add in the masalas. Stir and cooking for about 10 minutes on medium heat until all of the moisture has evaporated and bitter gourd peelings are fully cooked. Now salt: add a sprinkle of salt based on the amount of bitter gourd you have now after it has reduced in size and lost moisture. Don't over salt. Turn of the heat and add in the squeeze of lime juice. You have a hot, sour, bitter stuffing that should be browned in a way that it resembles beef/mutton ground meat (qeema). Set this aside and allow to cool.
Strain the skinless bitter gourds. Try to squeeze extra water out of them, washing them a few more times. Don't be afraid to squeeze. Remember that this is a tough little vegetable. Allow to air dry well before stuffing.
Now stuff each bitter gourd with fillings. You may also wrap a thread around each bitter gourd, winding it around the cylidrical body. This will prevent the stuffing from falling out as you Pan fry them later. However, I have done it both ways, wrapped and unwrapped, and even with bitter gourd that I cut in half because they were very long. I stir fried gently and no stuffing fell out. If you choose to wrap with thread, of course remember to remove the thread before serving :-)
Heat oil in a flat frying pan that has a lid. It should just be a light glazing of oil in the pan. When the pan is hot, add the stuffed karelas. Fry them as you would a sausage or hot dog, allowing them to spend time on each side for a few minutes in order to caramelize and color with nice golden brown blisters. While the karelas sit in the pan coloring, you should cover the pan with the lid in between turnings so that they steam a bit and cook through. When all sides have colored, keep them in the pan for a few moments more to make sure that all of the moisture has evaporated and that they are very slightly crispy. You can actually freeze them and heat them up gently for a party some other time, or prepare in the morning and re-heat at night. You would let them come to room temperature and then gently pan fry them again to heat through and revive the crispyness.
You may garnish with pan grilled onion rights, or deep fried garlic slices. In the pic above, I added some orange food coloring (biriani rangi powder) to garlic slivers, deep fried them till crisp, and then drained them on a paper towel. I added them as a garnish before serving the karela at the table.