Every cook needs aunts and great aunts to pass down their recipes. And cooks who Blog have an extended family who are also happy to pass down their family recipes.
Amala Sen is Sumana Mashi’s Kakima (Aunt) whose signature bitter gourd side was the star of many meals.
Its a simple bitter gourd-potato sauté but with some unusual ingredients for karela. Since Sumana Mashi took the pain to type out the recipe, and make my work simple, I will just go ahead and do something that I don’t usually do on PreeOccupied – use the Ctrl C-Ctrl V keys.
Amala Sen's (my aunt) Karela recipe: Since she never really provided any measures, here I go.
- Two large or four medium karela, cut in crescents, washed and rubbed with salt and turmeric
- You'll need also enough similarly sliced potatoes to make about 2/3 of the karela amount
- In karahi/pan heat 3tbsps oil (I use olive, she did mustard) and pop 1 tsp or so 'panch phoron seeds' i.e. mustard, methi, kalonji, fennel. Jeera (in some kitchens, randhuni/celery seeds).
- Add karela slices and fry for 5 minutes so all pieces seem lightly browned. Now add the potatoes, stir fry for another 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle salt for the whole amount and a 1/2 tsp or so more of turmeric.
- Cover and cook on medium heat as usual. Meanwhile in a small blender jar or coffee grinder crush fine 2 tbsp mustard seed. (if it's wet ground always add a pinch of salt and a small piece of green chili to stop the acridness) I always check dry ground stuff by taking and pinch of it and adding a few drop of water--is it smooth or rough at this stage?
- Back to 'karela'--also crush in pestle 4 cloves of garlic and have some freshly ground black pepper handy.
Check to see if karela is cooking in its own moisture--best not to add water which dilutes taste. If its too dry add a sprinkle of water.
- When karela and potatoes are cooked, make a well in the centre of karahi pushing veggies up the side, turn up the heat a few notches and when the well-bottom has no moisture add 2-3 tbsps of mustard oil.
- Bring oil to smoking point, add the crushed garlic cloves and brown slightly before mixing it all.
- Now add the mustard paste, ground black pepper and stir around.
- For the final touch you need about 2tbsps of thick tamarind paste thinned out with a bit of warm water.
- Mix this all in gently, taking care not to break karela pieces. The result should be on the dry side--a happy combo of bitter, tangy, garlicky, tartish tastes spiked by the pepper and mustard oil. You can eat this with rice or chapatis. All I did was follow Sumana Mashi’s instructions and out came a tangy, garlicky, delectably good Bitter Gourd side, which we had with Rice and Sambar.
Thank you, Sumana Mashi.