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Hyderabadi stuffed bittergourd (Dum ke bharwan karele)

Hyderabadi Nizami cuisine is famous for "dum" cooking. This is an ancient technique of slow cooking the dish sealed. The theory is that if the flavours are not allowed to escape, they will infuse the meats, and vegetables This technique is used most with the famous mutton biryani, but also with other slow-braised meats and more recently with vegetables. The resultant dish is loaded with infused flavours and the tenderest of meats. This technique is used all over the world, but it excels in Hyderabadi cuisine.

This dish is no exception. The bitter gourds are first slow simmered to cook them, and then sealed and baked again with the spicy curry sauce. The curry paste is also cooked twice, first in the pan to round out the flavours, and then again baked to yield a bold and deeply spiced gravy. The bitter gourds are infused with spices and flavours, a combination that is bitter and spicy. Straying from the mild Hyderabadi tastes, this dish packs a punch, one that will make you break out in a sweat.

This is a very specialized cookbook written by the doyen of Hyderabadi cooking, Mrs Mumtaz Khan. She grew up in an aristocratic family and was interested in cooking at an early stage, from about 6 years old. She is widely regarded as the Queen of Hyderabadi spices and has taught legions of chefs and brides the delicate art of Hyderabadi cuisine. This cookbook has been put together by her daughter to preserve her mother's memory and recipes.

More recipes from this book are here.


3-4 small bitter gourds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

Salt, to taste

5 cups water

For the filling:

2 large onions

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon desiccated coconut

2 tablespoons roasted peanuts

1 teaspoon stone flower, or pathar ka phool

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon ginger paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

2 teaspoons chilli powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon jaggery

6 green chillies

1/2 cup cilantro

12-15 curry leaves

Salt, to taste

Water, as needed

To temper:

3 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

6-8 curry leaves

Cilantro, minced, for garnish

Slit the bitter gourds longitudinally and scoop out the inner pith and seeds. You want to create a nice clean pocket. Add the bitter gourds to a pot with the turmeric, ginger, garlic, salt and water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 35-45 minutes till the bitter gourds are completely cooked and soft.

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Quarter the onions and dry roast till cooked through and charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Remove and cool.

dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, peanuts, pathar ka phool and bay leaf individually till each is lightly toasted and aromatic. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill. NOTE: I usually add the peanuts last after all the other spices are finely ground. The peanuts tend to turn into butter and form a paste.

In a small blender, mix the spice powder, roasted onions, ginger, garlic, tamarind, chilli powder, turmeric, jaggery, green chiles, cilantro, curry leaves, salt, and a few tablespoons of water. Grind to a thick smooth paste. You want to add just enough water to allow the mix to spin in the blender, not too watery.

Use half the paste to fill the pockets of the bitter gourds. Set aside.

Heat the oil for the temper in a small pot. Add the ingredients for the temper and cook for 20 seconds till the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the remaining spice paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Lightly oil a baking dish. Add the tempered spice mix to the bottom of the dish. Top with the stuffed bitter gourds nestling them into the sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove and layer on a plate. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve.

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