This weekend I made karela bhaaji (thats what we call sabzis or curries in Mumbai); this is a very easy recipe and takes about 30 mins to make. I made it based on a recipe from Hamkhaas Pakshiddhi by Mrs. Jayashree Deshpande; a cookbook aai gave me when I got married. Mrs. Deshpande almost seems my like culinary mom to me now! The tamarind and jaggery (this is unrefined sugar with a distinct taste) in the recipe complement the bitterness of the gourd superbly and the roasted sesame seeds lend a lovely taste.
1/2 lbs (3-4 medium sized) fresh karela/bittergourds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
tadka ingredients (1 tsp mustard, 1/8 tsp asafoetida, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp goda masala (this is a typical Marathi masala; use garam masala if you don't have it)
1/2 tsp tamarind pulp
1-2 tbsp jaggery (substitute with sugar if you dont have jaggery; start with one tbsp and add more if you wish, depending on how much bitterness you can tolerate)
2 tbsp oil (Mrs. D says 3 tbsp in her recipe but I couldn't help cutting it down to two)
salt to taste
-Dry roast the sesame seeds and powder coarsely.
-Wash the gourds thoroughly; remove the outer ridges a little if you wish (i kept them intact). Cut the gourds into thin rings
-Take about 1.5 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed vessel, add the gourd rings and saute/fry them in the oil till the seeds turn brown and crispy (took me about 10 mins). Remove the rings and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil in the vessel and add the tadka ingredients.
- Once the mustard seed sputter, add the gourd rings, tamarind, jaggery, salt, chilli powder, sesame seed powder and goda masala. Add 2 cups of water and cover. Lower the heat to medium and let it cook for atleast 10-15 mins. Stir once in a while.
-After about 10-15 mins, the bhaaji should be ready. Cook a little longer on high heat if there is lots of water left and you want to thicken the gravy.
-Garnish with cilantro leaves. Once done, your bhaaji will look like this! Serve with hot rotis or dal-rice. Lovely comfort food!
Mrs. Deshpande has two lovely tips on cooking bitter gourds:
1. Covering the gourds while cooking results in a bhaaji that is not-very-bitter (true, I vouch).
2. Because you pre-fry/saute the gourd rings, they stay pretty crispy till the end.
I am also sending this recipe to Cooking with seeds- Sesame Seed Events hosted by Priya's EasyNTasty Recipes