Here is an offering, from my mother-in-law, that turns bitter karela into a bewitching morsel. As a new bride, she had learned this recipe from her mother-in-law at Nandyala half a century ago. Now, it’s my turn. I feel extremely privileged to learn first hand and share this centuries-old recipe tradition here on Mahanandi.
The ingredients and the cooking method are exactly as they were in the past. The only thing changed is the stuffing preparation. Earlier, they used to powder the ingredients in a mortar using a pestle. Now I use a Sumeet mixer.
In this recipe, the karela is subjected to steam cooking, stuffing and then sauteeing. The stuffing is ever desirable kobbari-pappula podi. Even children who would otherwise never touch a karela devour these tender karelas with a crisp outer shell and tasty stuffing. Stuffed karelas are excellent as a lunch or supper side dish, accompanied by daal, sambar or curd rice.
Stuffed Karela (Nimpina Kakara)
(Ingredients are for 6 karela. A steam-cooker and a wide, thick-bottomed skillet or pan are needed for preparation.)
Karelas – Young and fresh looking karelas, about hand or palm length are the best ones for this recipe. One or two karelas per person.
Stuffing – for 6 karelas, we need about half cup pappulu (dalia), quarter cup finely chopped dried coconut pieces, 6 Indian variety dried red chillies and half teaspoon each – cumin and salt. Take them in a mixer and grind to fine powder. Keep this stuffing in a cup on the side.
Then, follow the Karela pictorial.
Peel the Karela outer ridges lightly. Rinse under water.
Place a steam cooker on the stove-top. Fill the cooker to quarter with water. Add a teaspoon of salt to water. Place the karelas in a steam basket. Cover tightly with lid. Bring the water to boil and steam-cook the karelas to tender. Takes around five minutes. Pay attention to the process and do not overcook the karelas to mush. Remove the basket and let the karelas cool.
With a sharp knife, cut karela lengthwise, keeping the ends intact like shown in the photo above. Scoop out the seeds and keep them in a cup. Prepare all of them this way and line them up for stuffing.
Fill the karela shell with stuffing. Add about a tablespoon of powder to each one, and spread along the length.
Bring the cut edges together and run a thread around the stuffed karela. Tuck the thread edges underneath a round. Karela will hold the shape and would remain closed during sautéing. There is really no need for tying the knot or needle threading.
Place a wide pan on stove-top. Add and heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Place the stuffed and threaded karelas in a single row. Also, on the sides, add the seeds removed from karelas. On medium-low heat, sauté karelas to golden, turning frequently. Take care not to blacken or burn them. The seeds also get grilled to crisp.
Place the sautéed karelas in a serving dish after removing the thread. Sprinkle few tablespoons of remaining stuffing powder and also roasted karela seeds. Serve warm with rice, daal/sambar or yogurt rice.
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.
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