Absolutely my favorite combo, and no matter where I've tried them, nobody does them better than mom. Well, except the daal makhni. Mom is a brave cook, buy she would never dare add the amount of makkhan(butter) it takes for the real, road-side dhaaba style punjabi daal makhni. But, hey, we tried. And today, I tried again, compensating for the snow outside and the slow day at work.
For the karele, I basically follow mom's recipe, differing in two big ways, one, I parboil the karela skins in tamarind water; it softens them and allows for better browning in much less oil. Two, I add something else to the stuffing other than just karela peelings. Onions and raw mangoes are two obvious choices, but I usually stick to the blander potato/paneer, since it takes the edge off the spices and allows me to eat more stuffing!
6-8 raw karele/bitter gourds
lots of salt
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 small potatoes
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp anise seeds/saunf
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp raw mango powder/amchoor
2-3 tbsp mustard oil
First, scrape all the bumps and ridges off the bitter gourds. Then make a longitudinal slit on one side and scoop out the seeds with your fingers. Generously salt the gourds and the scrapings/seeds.
Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, wash the salt off the bitter gourds. Put the scrapings/seeds in a strainer, rinse, and squeeze dry.
Boil plenty of water in a pot. When it comes to a roll, add the tamarind paste and the bitter gourds. Give it a minute, drain and wash the skins under cold water.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saute pan. When it sizzles, add the spices, except for mango powder. Add the squeezed scraping mixture and the potatoes. Taste and add salt; you may not need any. Now add the mango powder. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the mixture dries put and the stuffing loses the bright green color. Cool.
Now gently stuff the karelas. You might want to tie them up with a white cotton thread, if you're afraid they'll fall apart. I usually don't bother.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wide, heavy bottomed skillet (preferably iron). Add the karelas in a flat later. Let them brown on one side, then turn over gently. Keep browning until all sides are well done. If they start to burn, just cover with a lid to capture some moisture, but try not to add water. The idea is to get them darkly browned, almost charred if you will.
It took me about thirty minutes on a low-medium flame. And now I'm off to make the rotis. It is snowing again and there's Christmas music on the radio. Life is good.