Green vegetables are such an important part of the human diet and yet it is very much neglected due to taste, availability, time and lack of knowledge on how to cook with them and incorporate them into our daily lives. Karela is one of the most commonly omitted vegetables due to it’s bitter taste. Lets look at the use of this gourd and others that are used in Indian cooking.
What is Lot Vara Karela Nu Shaak?
Lot Vara Karela nu shaak is simply an authentic, wholesome Gujarati dish which is really originates from villages in Gujarat. There are a variety of ways in which it can be prepared, from adding potatoes to cashew nuts to simply having them cooked with a few lovely strong spices. I chose to prepare this recipe with gram flour and some lovely spices and jaggery whih has given this dish a lovely savoury taste and texture.
As I mentioned above karela or bitter gourd is not my favorite, because, well its bitter. Reluctantly I made this recipe at mums recommendation and I loved it!!! So Gujarati Lot Vara Karela Nu Shaak was a massive hit with everyone at home and the bitter taste, well while it was there it actually added to the taste of all the other spices and ingredients.
Popular Gourds for Indian Cuisine
Bottle gourd or doodhi definitely tops the list of gourds used in Indian cuisine. Its easy to prepare and readily available. Its used to make curries, added to flatbreads, a highly versatile vegetable. My favorite is adding it to make Gujarati Rasiya Muthia and to make Hondwo.
Ivy gourd or tindora is another popular gourd which finds its way to most dining tables of India. My all time favorite way to cook tindora is to make tindora no sambharo.
Ridge gourd or turiya, turia, is another popular gourd I tend to use especially when making vegetable curry. It can be made delicious with aubergines and pigeon peas.
What are Gourds?
Gourds refer to the large fleshy fruits with or without hard skin that grow on these climbing or trailing plants.
There are three main groups of gourds:
- Citrullus colocynthis
Would you believe me if I said that there are over 800 species of gourd? Pumpkins, squashes, melons are all actually gourds. Not all gourds are edible though and they can only really be used for decorative purposes such as cups, bottles and bowls. Calabash, a type of bottle gourd is a prime example of a gourd that when tender is cooked and when mature, the inner part is scooped out and used as a utensil.
Pumpkin is a popular gourd used both for decoration at halloween and in cooking for soups and curry’s. Did you know cucumber and zucchini too belong to the gourd family? Melons are gourds. Most popular is watermelon.
Oh by the way, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash are all gourds. While I still have to taste acorn and spaghetti squash, butternut squash is available throughout the year in the UK. I love making butternut squash sauce to serve with pasta and other vegetables.
Give this recipe a go, let me know what you think.
Gujarati Lot Vara Karela Nu Shaak (Gujarati Spiced Bitter Gourd)
6-8 Organic Bitter Gourd (Karela)
3 Tablespoon organic coconut oil
1 ½ Teaspoon organic mustard, fenugreek and cumin seed mix
½ Teaspoon organic asafoetida
2-3 Cloves organic garlic
½ Teaspoon tumeric powder
1 Teaspoon organic red chilli powder
1 ½ Teaspoon organic cumin and coriander powder
10g Organic jaggery or 2-3 teaspoons organic brown sugar
300g Organic gram flour
Salt to taste
Fresh organic coriander leaves
- Start by thoroughly washing the karela in cold water and pat dry.
- Slice the karela in half length ways and scoop out the centre on the karela using a spoon.
- Now chop the karela into medium size chuncks and then finely chop the fresh coriander and set both aside.
- Heat up the oil in a large pan on medium and add the mustard, fenugreek and cumin seed mix and allow it to crackle. Then add the asafoetida.
- Next add the chopped karela with the garlic, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder and salt. Gently combine together the spices and the karela and allow the karela to cook through until soft and cooked. Ensure there is a small amount of liquid remaining in the pan from the karela.
- In a large bowl sift the gram flour and add 1 tablespoon of oil and mix together thoroughly.
- Turn down the heat and spinkle the oiled gram flour on top of the karela, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Do not mix and ensure it is on the lowest heat possible.
- After 10 minutes, uncover and gently fold in the gram flour with the karela.
- The karela and gram flour will be dry at this stage so its important to keep it at a very low heat level. Cover and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and serve with hot rotli or rice.