Wednesday 6 January 2016

Bitter Gourd Curry - Karela Masala.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

We begin the year with a vegetarian (even vegan!) curry that you may have been afraid to cook.
But before we do, how are you?
How's your six days of January been so far? Mine have been good although I still cannot believe it's 2016.

The other day, my nieces (both born in the 2000's) asked me what life was like in the 90's. One even asked if we had books and tables back then. When I mentioned that I remembered things from the year 1998, they both let out shrieks of disbelief. I felt so old.

In food news, I have been smashing up my avocados. I refuse to eat them any other way. And, I have been contemplating more no-machine ice cream flavours. I know I shouldn't because it's freezing here. But I can't resist. They're so easy to make, you guys love them and I think I may have found a way to add my favourite sweet roll into the next batch. Get excited.
But finally, let us talk bitter gourds. For some of you, they may seem alien but for me and anyone else growing up in a Pakistani/Indian household, they are as normal as potatoes. Knobbly and scary looking they may be with a name that puts you off eating them, but prepared in the right way, they're a joy to eat. A delicacy, something out of the ordinary, I think they're the perfect vegetarian challenge for the new year and your next curry night.

Bitter Gourds, previously: Keema Karela - Bitter Gourds stuffed with Spicy Lamb Mince

A Simple List of Ingredients:
1. Bitter Gourds
2. Salt
3. Vegetable Oil
4. Onions
5. Crushed Red Chilli Flakes
6. Tinned Tomatoes / Tomatoes
7. Ground Coriander
8. Ground Cumin
9. Curry Powder
10. Ground Turmeric
11. Water
12. Jalapeno Chilli

Bismillah, let's begin! 

Our first job is to prepare the bitter gourds. Yep, they look scary but follow my instructions and you'll see how easy it is to prep them. We'll need 3 large Bitter Gourds.

Take a potato peeler and a knife.

Slice off the tops and bottoms. Peel the knobbly skin off with the potato peeler.

Slice them through the middle. You'll see that they have seeds inside.

We don't want to be eating the seeds so scoop them out - we use a teaspoon to do this.

Next, slice them into half-moons.

Now that we have prepared them, it's time to brine them in salt. This is to get rid of most of their bitter flavour. So, take 1 teaspoon Salt. It seems a lot but we will be rinsing it off later.

Sprinkle over the gourd.

Toss well to evenly mix in the salt.

Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.

Once this time is over, you'll see that the gourds have begun to release liquid.

Squeeze out the bitter liquid from the gourd slices.

Once you've squeezed the liquid out, place into a sieve.

Look at all that liquid left behind!

Next, wash the bitter gourd to get rid of any extra salt.

Let them drain.

Then, place on paper towels.

And, pat completely dry.

We're going to fry these and if they're too wet, they won't fry properly.

Speaking of frying, let's heat our oil. You want quite a bit here - 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, otherwise the gourd won't fry properly.

Heat the oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the sliced bitter gourd.

Fry them until golden brown and crispy.

Then, using a slotted spoon ...

... place onto a plate. I forgot to line mine with paper towels. Set aside until needed.

To the same pan and the same oil, we're going to add our onions.

You'll need 2 large Onions.

Peel them, dice them ..

... and add to the hot oil.

Fry the onions over a medium high heat.

We want them to be light golden brown in colour - this should take about 10 minutes. Be sure to stir them every now and then to make sure they're not catching.

While the onions cook, let's gather our spices. They include the usual culprits - we're talking ground cumin, crushed red chilli flakes and ground coriander.

Also joining the gang are ground turmeric, curry powder and of course, salt.

Once the onions are perfect, we're going add 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Chilli Flakes. We add this now so that our onions begin to get that beautiful deep red colour.
And, as always, the chilli is to taste.

Stir-fry the chilli for a minute.

And, then it's time to talk tomatoes. We used 3 peeled Tomatoes but you can also use 1/2 tin Plum Tomatoes.

Whichever of the two you decide to use, you're going to want to blend them until smooth.

Pour into the pan.

And, stir-fry for another minute or two.

Then, add in the rest of the spices. We have:
1 teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder
1/4 teaspoon Ground Turmeric

Once in, give them a good mix.

Then, stir-fry the masala over a medium high until it dries out slightly.

Next, water! Altogether we added about 1/2 cup (125 ml) Water but you can add more or less. The water is added in stages so in goes a little.


The next splash!

Stir-fry again!

And, the last splash!

Stir-fry now until the masala has come together and the oil has risen to the surface. If you want a super smooth sauce, feel free to blend at this point.

We prefer it like this so in went our fried bitter gourds from earlier.

Stir them in.

And, the final ingredient! A Jalapeno Chilli, sliced through the middle - you could add the thin green chillies instead.

A final stir!

Then, it's time to simmer with the lid on for about 5-10 minutes to let all the flavours come together.

And, we're done! How easy was that! As you can tell, this is a very dry curry. 

It's one of my Dad's favourites and we recommend you eat it with roti or naan.

The bitter gourd is definitely an acquired taste but those who have been brought up on it will love it. If you haven't, well I think the new year is all about new challenges and in the curry department, this is just that!

Full Written Recipe:

Bitter Gourd Curry – Karela Masala.

Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Cook Time: About 30 minutes.
Serves: About 3-4 people.

3 large Bitter Gourds (Karela)
1 teaspoon Salt (for brining the gourds)
½ cup Vegetable Oil
2 large Onions, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Chilli Flakes
½ tin (200 grams) Tomatoes, blended OR 3 large Tomatoes, peeled and blended
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Curry Powder
¼ teaspoon Ground Turmeric
½ cup (125 ml) Water
1 Jalapeno Chilli, sliced through the middle


To prepare the bitter gourds, peel them with a potato peeler. Slice in half through the middle and scoop out the seeds – we use a teaspoon for this. Slice into half-moons.

To brine the bitter gourds, sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon Salt. Toss them to evenly distribute the salt and let them sit for at least 15 minutes. Then, squeeze out the bitter juice that they release and wash them to get rid of any extra salt. Pat dry on paper towels.

To fry the bitter gourds, heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the bitter gourds and fry until golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

To make the masala, add the diced onions to the same hot oil. Fry the onions until light golden brown over a medium high heat – about 10 minutes.
Add the crushed red chilli flakes and fry for 1 minute. Then, pour in the blended tomatoes and fry for another minute or two.
Next, add in the salt, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric and curry powder.
Fry until the masala is dry – about 5 minutes. Add the water in stages, stir-frying after each addition, until the oil rises and you have a smooth masala. If you want it super smooth, feel free to blend it.

To make the karela masala, add the fried bitter gourd slices to the masala. Stir in and add the jalapeno chilli. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes to let all the flavours absorb.

Time to eat! This is a very traditional dry curry and is best eaten with roti or naan. Enjoy!

This Time One Year Ago:
Tuna Fried Rice

This Time Two Years Ago:
Bakewell Tart

This Time Three Years Ago:
Fresh Pizza Dough

Keep me in your duas please, and enjoy your curry,


Spice Enthusiast
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