Kotwara Karela Dal

Meera Ali, wife of Muzaffar Ali (Raja of Kotwara) – the legendary filmmaker, whose period film ‘Umrao Jaan’ was set in the erstwhile province of Awadh (Oudh), needs no introduction. Meera has authored a very well researched book, ‘Dining with the Nawabs’. The book has been painstakingly researched and most creatively presented with some very lively photographs by Karam Puri. It not only details the collection of some very rare and secret recipes of the Royal Homes of Nawabs including, Arcot, Bhawalpur, Bhopal, Chhatari, Hyderabad, Kamadhia, Surat, Khairpur, Rampur, Zainbad and of course from her own home Kotwara, but also gives a vivid account of history of each royalty. The recipe of ‘Karela Dal’ is from this book’s Kotwara section by Meera Ali. She is always happy to curate very exclusive meals for visiting guests of Tornos and interprets recipes from her book for gourmands wanting to experience home-cooked food from the royal kitchens.

(For lentils)
Bengal gram (chana dal), washed, soaked overnight 500 gm/ 1.1 lb
Water 4 cups/1 lt/32 fl oz
Turmeric (haldi) powder 11/2 tsp / 4 gm
Fennel (saunf) seeds 1 tsp / 3 gm
Nigella seeds (kalonji) 1/2 tsp
Coriander (dhaniya) powder 1 tsp / 3 gm
Red Chilli (lal mirch) powder 1/2 tsp
Cumin (jeera) powder 1 tsp / 3 gm
Garlic (lasan) cloves, chopped 4
Ginger (adrak), chopped 1” piece
Salt to taste

(For bitter gourd)
Bitter gourd (karela), pared, washed, sprinkled with salt, set aside overnight in a plate with a slight tilt so the bitter water that drains off flows to one side 250 gm / 9 oz
Mustard (sarson) oil 4 tbsp / 60 ml / 2 fl oz
Onions, finely chopped 250 gm / 9 oz
Garlic cloves, finely chopped 4
Ginger, finely chopped 1>> piece
Fenugreek seeds (methi dana) 15-20
Fennel seeds 1 tsp / 2 gm
Nigella seeds 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp / 3 gm
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Black mustard seeds (rai) 1/2 tsp
White mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp / 3 gm
Salt to Taste
Dry mango powder (amchur) 1 tsp / 3 gm
Jaggery (gur), pounded 2” piece

(For garnishing)
Vegetable oil just enough to fry the onion
Onion, small, finely sliced 1
Cumin seeds 1 tsp / 2 gm
Whole red chillies 4

• For the lentils, place the lentils along with all the ingredients mentioned in a pressure cooker and cook for 10-15 minutes till the lentils are completely cooked. Set aside.
• For the bitter gourd, squeeze out the water which comes out of the gourd, wash and cut into tiny pieces.
• Heat the mustard oil in a pan; fry the bitter gourd for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the oil behind in the pan.
• In the same oil, fry the onions till red. Then add the ginger, garlic, fenugreek seeds (make sure the fenugreek seeds do not burn to black but stays a red color), fennel seeds, nigella seeds, coriander powder, red chilli powder, black and white mustard seeds, cumin powder and salt. Add the fried bitter gourd back into the pan and stir together for a while, then add a little water and cook, covered, till tender, stirring occasionally.
• Lastly, add the dry mango powder and the pounded jaggery.
• Once the bitter gourd is completely cooked, add this entire mixture to the boiled lentils and cook together for 15 minutes.
• For the garnishing, fry the onion in a separate pan till red. Add the cumin seeds and whole red chillies. When the seeds start to sizzle and the onion is fried evenly, remove and pour over the lentil just before serving. Serve hot.