Punk Gourd Curry

Karela Curry 

Uncommon in the British diet are these wonderful bitter gourds, they look like punked-up cucumbers. With their studs and blunt spikes, almost like some feral vegetable conceived in the imagination of an unhinged scientist. Bitter gourds are like the black sheep of the vegan family, the wayward cousin no one talks about.

Known across the Indian subcontinent as karela there’s a simple ingenuity required to turn these ugly ducklings into gracious swans with a sweet and sour delicious piquancy.

Serves 2 as a main

  • 500g bitter gourd (approximately 6)
  • Salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely sliced
  • 1/3 tsp chilli powder
  • 100ml water
  • ½ tsp tamarind concentrate
  • Coriander leaves, to dress
Karela Curry

How To Make Karela Curry 

Peel the skin from the bitter gourd, slice through the middle and scoop out the seeds from the centre. Chop the flesh into chunks, put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Cover and leave for 3 hours, or overnight if possible. Wash thoroughly – this is really important as they’ll stay very bitter if not rinsed well – and pat dry.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil over a medium temperature and brown the onion. Add the turmeric, ground coriander and tomatoes, cooking for a couple of minutes, then drop in the chillies and chilli powder, pour in the water and drip in the tamarind concentrate. Turn the heat down and stir the ingredients together, frying the masala for 5–8 minutes until everything has combined, the turmeric has lost some of its initial pungency and the mix is a little drier. Add the bitter gourd and cook for 15 minutes, stirring gently. The chunks will recede and shrink a bit, which is normal. Test the bitter gourd by piercing with a fork. If the fork meets no resistance, the dish is ready to be served. Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves.

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