Friday, July 27, 2007

Pavakkai Kuzhambu

Cooking 101
DD's school has an auction every year as a fundraiser. Families contribute items, whatever they deem buyable which are then auctioned off on Auction Day. Couple of parents in DDs class who are Vegetarians suggested I offer Indian Cooking 101 as an auction item. According to them Indian Cuisine offers a wide variety of dishes for Vegetarians compared to any other which I agree to without any arguments. I auctioned 2 classes at $20 a piece. They were 2 people who bought the tickets and another Parent who wanted to join too. We fixed on a day to do the class, the kids had a play date while the moms learned to cook. We made Channa Masala, Palak Paneer and Chapatis. But having to take care of the kids while trying to cook was not a bright idea and in the end though my students(?!) were happy with the dishes we cooked I was tired at the end of it and having to clean up after that was not fun either.

The second class was the more challenging one, this family was purely Vegetarian and moving towards being Vegans. They were also into auyurvedic cooking and trying to cook with those principles in mind. She wanted to learn to cook dishes without any onion and garlic and without chilli peppers because she was allergic to them and also to make it palatable for the kids though her husband liked to eat spicy food. I have never cooked without onions and garlic atleast not consciously anyway and without any chilli peppers was another story altogether. She picked a few dishes that she would like to learm - Chickpeas and Spinach. She was a very attentive student taking copious notes. We made Channa Masala without onion and garlic and I was surprised to find that it tasted great without the ingredients that I am so used to adding that I hardly even think about them. I did add some red chili powder for the portion we were going to eat. It was gone before I could take any pictures but I want to try it again soon. Now on to the recipe...

The bitter gourd plants are starting to bear fruit. So it is atleast one bitter gourd dish a week. I cannot but contrast the fresh tasting ones with the limp sad looking ones that we usually get in the grocery stores.

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Pavakkai Kuzhambu
1. 4-5 Bitter Gourds Cut into about 1" rounds. Once cut remove the seeds
2. 1/4 Red Onion chopped
3. 1 Tomato chopped
4. 4 Garlic Pods chopped
5. seasonings: mustard, methi seeds and Curry leaves
6. 1/4 Cup tamarind juice
7. 2 tsp jaggery (adjust to taste)

For the Paste
1. 2 tbsp Corriander Seeds
2. 1 tsp Cumin seeds
3. 1/2 tsp Pepper
4. 3 Red Chilies
5. 12 Pearl onions
6. 2 Tbsp roasted Moong Dal (or 2 tbsp grated Coconut)

In a pan heat 1/2 tsp of oil and roast 1-4, to this add the onions and when they are translucent add the moong dal and give it a swirl. Blend this to a smooth paste with a little bit of water.

1. In a pan heat a 1/2 tsp oil and saute the bitter gourd pieces and set aside.
2. Add another 1/2 tsp of oil and when hot add the seasonings.
3. Add the onions and saute till translucent
4. Add the garlic followed by the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are soft.
5. Now add the bitter gourd pieces and the ground masala and about 1/2 cup of water and let it cook till the bitter gourd is soft.
6. Now add the tamarind juice, sugar and salt and cook till desired consistency is reached.

Serve with Rice and Dal.


  1. wow cooking class great going ISG, without onion and garlic hmm yeah u know my parents and in laws do not add onion and garlic during festive time. i have tough time with it for my h without onion is like no taste. the kozumbu looks lovely :)

  2. What a grand idea, ISG, cooking classes and for a good cause too! I imagine you as an excellent teacher. When I have a shop, maybe you'll make a guest appearance and give a demonstration??? :)

    The kuzhambu looks great even with bittergourd. Glad to hear you're getting fresh veggies -- I will have to give this one another go now. Have a great weekend! :)

  3. Looks so good! Indo,I planted Ridge gourd and snake gourd but they flower and fall off.Next year I must grow them on the ground.Enjoy the Karela bounty:))

  4. Hey can i join the cooking class too?? Good to hear about that!

  5. Very nice kuzumbu and i love this veggie. Viji

  6. Cooking without garlic-onion and chilli powder...impossible for me !!! :)
    pavakkai Kuzhambu looks great!

  7. Roopa, I was not sure in the beginning I am not a good teacher. One good thing about cooking without onions is no sauteing and hence no distintive curry smell inside the house.

    Linda! I am happy about the vote of confidence but I am not sure if I am a good teacher. Oh defintely when you open your store I will be there first. Don't I have to be glamarous and highly popular to do a demonstration. I will work on those I promise :)))

    Bitter gourds never fail me. I wait for summer to eat them fresh I can't get myself to buy them.

    Asha, wait that is what happened to my snake gourds last summer and I was growing them in pots too. Mine started to fruit middle of August and did all of September so much so that I did not know what to do with them after giving them away. So be a little bit more patient.

    Jyothsana Welcome anytime. You can me teach me a thing or two too.

    Viji, absolutely that makes two of us.

    Tee I thought so too but I was kind of surprised.

  8. What a wonderful idea Indo. You should give classes more often maybe :)
    Have never planted bittergourd , is it easy to grow ?

  9. Wow! What a wonderful idea! Teaching Cooking classes... I salute thee! :) Man! I could have taken a class from you, while you were here. :)

    And no! I'm never growing bittergourd... I hate bittergourds, but the plants look so lovely... so lush! My husband loves it(the vegetable, unlike me who loves the plant, hate the veg) way too much that I would have to cook it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'll come to you blog and look at your bittergourd plant.. thank you! :)


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