Bitter gourd/bitter melon/karela/korola/uchhe(smaller variety), although not a favourite to many, it is said to have many health benefits. It is traditionally known to have anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and cholesterol lowering effects. It has many compounds that may have the potential as anti-oxidant and anti-mutagen.
Here is my MILs recipe, albeit my style.
3 Bitter gourd/ karela/ucche, quatered lengthwise and then very thinly sliced
1/2 Butternut Squash, diced into about 3/4 inch size
2-3 Green chillies, chopped
1tsp Kala jeera or nigella seeds or onion seeds
1tsp Turmeric powder
Soak the bitter gourd slices in salted water for about 30mins. This will help reduce the bitterness. Drain and keep aside.
Heat oil in a saute pan/kadai.
Add kala jeera to the hot oil.
When they start crackling, add the chopped chillies, vegetables, turmeric and salt to taste.
Cover and cook on a low flame till done. Butternut squash should become soft but not mushy.
Keep turning the vegetables in between to check that they are not getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. Usually, the veggies will leave water, however if it still gets dry, add about 2-3tbsp water, mix well, cover and cook further on a low flame.
Your simple, healthy butternut squash with bitter gourd is ready!
What better way of having this bitter, blood purifying vegetable then combining it with the sweetness of a pumpkin. I have found an easy substitute for a kumro, as they aren't available in the closeby supermarkets.
The above dish is a substitute version of my MILs Uchhe Kumro bhaja, where I have used butternut squash instead of a pumpkin with bitter gourd. I had not come across this exotic combination, until I got married into a Bengali family.
Thanks to the time I spent at my MIL's place for the first few years. Coming from a different state in India, we had very different styles of cooking, with the same ingredients. Although I've had bitter gourd in many different ways before, I liked this easy, simple dish, so much so that I wrote it down in my recipe diary before leaving India for UK, lest I should forget!
Unlike other food cultures in India, Bengalis have proper, French style, courses in their meals. Meaning, they would have entree', main course and desserts! So, if you ask me when would one have this dish, I would say, it will be at the start of the meal with a little bit of rice.