Pickles – This condiment literally tickles my palate. I LOVE pickles of any sort – sweet pickles, sour pickles, water pickles, candied pickles, fermented pickles, spicy pickles, tangy pickles. Pickles are vegetables or fruits soaked in solutions as a preservative. Be it European pickles that is acidic like the gherkins in brine and Kosher dill pickles or Far East’s fermented pickles like Kimchi and Japanese tsukemono with complex flavors. Likewise, Indian pickles have a myriad of spices and flavors. When citrus fruits are in season I make lemon/ lime pickle and preserve for later use.
Lemon pickle is commonly used in my household. I must say I’m the only pickle lover at home. I need any pickle with thayir sadam (yogurt rice). The husband cares less. It’s time consuming (about 2-3 weeks) to yield the desired outcome, but takes less than an hour to put together. I make tonnes of pickle during summer and savor it throughout the year. Usually, I make the south Indian style pickles. Difference being the oil used for tempering and the spices used for seasoning. South Indians use sesame oil, while north Indians use mustard oil. Each impart a distinct flavor and aroma to the final output. Price wise, It costs half the price you’ll spend outside.
This preparation is made in my household every week. Almost every Indian household has a version of Dal Palak. Usually, the north Indian version has different seasoning and south Indians add sambar powder for that unique flavor. You can use spices that suits your palate. I use a set of spices that works for us. Know what, PR is put off when he takes a bite of a whole spice in the curries. It’s not nice to chomp on a big cardamom or blades of mace. I use Garam Masala or smaller spices that just disappear into the dish. Cumin, fennel, carom et al are spices that give texture and flavor to most curries.
Phew!!! I’m back with baked bitter gourd…..and this time, it’s for good. I was on too long a hiatus than planned. Well, a cross country move, hubby’s new job and a new place to settle in does demand time and energy. That’s not the only factor that kept me away from blogging, I had blogger’s block. I didn’t know where and how to start again. I kept procrastinating the ‘come back’ out of sheer laziness. Oh Yeah! I admit. Meanwhile, I made new friends (real life and virtual), actively participated in online discussions on forums like Home Bakers Guild and did a lot of baking. In a way, I decided to post this recipe after I saw the interest from several ‘Karela Lovers’ for baked version of bitter gourd opposed to the fried counterpart.
Before getting the right crispy texture, I had failures with regards to right balance of spices, oven temperature and baking time. It was either charred or soggy. But I was hell bent on baking it instead of deep frying just to escape the guilt trip of feeding on ‘fried’ food. Saying that, I came across two varieties of bitter gourds in the market. One was the long Chinese light green bitter melon with pebbled texture and the other is the shorter Indian variety with spiky texture. Taste wise, both are just ‘bitter’. I call it pleasant culinary bitterness which I enjoy with a bowl of rice and curry. While selecting bitter gourd, take note the color matters. Dark green and firm ones are tender and bitter, while the light green and soft textured ones are less bitter, sometimes even ripe inside with reddish pith and big seeds.
This bitter vegetable with least appealing acrid taste is believed to make the diabetics fitter. Neah, I’m kidding. It is scientifically proven that bittergourd improves the uptake of glucose. It is loaded with Vitamin A and C, Beta carotene, Iron and Calcium. According to Ayurveda ‘Karela’ was used to balance the doshas (composition) of our body.
This is a simple stir fry with cabbage and carrot which is easily available round the year. A typical South Indian lunch platter consists of a medley of preparations with vegetable, lentils stew and curd (yogurt) served with rice, a three course meal. Poriyal is prepared with one or more finely chopped/ grated vegetables shallowed fried with few spices. With subtle variation it is called as palya in Karnataka and thoran in Kerala. I prefer to add some turmeric and asafoetida to my preparation. You may omit these and still prepare a tasty poriyal.
Yet another simple dish with a simple vegetable. Okra/ Lady’s Finger/ Gumbo is either liked or hated. People who dislike Okra cite it’s sliminess. Kadai Bhindi is one recipe which reduces the sliminess by shallow frying the pods. If prepared correctly with patience, this vegetable gives a delightful taste.