The monsoons bring with it a bounty of new veg and greens that are often overlooked by other communities, and this happens because not everyone knows how to prepare it. Two years ago when I stumbled upon Kantola or teasel gourd for the first time, I was obviously quite taken by it. Prickly like a bitter gourd and bright green, the juicy seed-studded little fellas were a mystery to me, but I had people around me show me how it’s prepared. Pleasantly bitter as opposed to the bitter gourd, kantola is shallow-fried, stir-fried and turned into pakoras during the monsoons with simple spices to yield astounding results. Desi karelas can also be found during the monsoons and are smaller and fatter than regular karela. These tender bitter gourds aren’t very bitter and wont be in season for long, so stock up on the two, mix and match, and cook them pronto. Unlike regular karela which requires you to peel the skin off, both of these are great skin-on. A quick par-boil, then shallow-frying job is all that it takes to prepare these and bring them to the table.
For the filling, I use a family favourite sweet, spicy and garlicky peanut filling, which can be frozen and used as needed. You can stuff this into snake gourd too, parboil it and shallow fry, or do the same with small, oblong parwal.
Stuffed Teasel Gourd
Yield 4 as a side
These stuffed little teasel or spiky gourds are a monsoon favourite. The sweet spicy peanut filling makes more than needed, so you can store and use them as needed.
Kantola or Teasel Gourd/ Desi Karela 10-15 pieces
Kashmiri chillies 8
Coriander seeds 2 tsp
Garam masala 2 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida/ Hing 1/2 tsp
Garlic 7-8 cloves
Sugar 2 tbsp
Vegetable oil for shallow-frying
Wash the teasel gourd or desi karela and make a slit from top to base with a sharp knife being careful not to cut all the way through. There's no need to peel the flesh of these gourds as its quite tender. Rub some salt in the opening and set it aside.
Blanch the teasel gourd or desi karela in hot water for 5 minutes exactly. Drain and let it cool. You don't have to scrape out the seeds.
Blitz the rest of the ingredients together with a teaspoon of salt in a mixer grinder briefly until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You don't want to blitz the mixture too fine. Taste for more salt or sugar.
Stuff each of the gourds with the mixture and refrigerate the rest. You can tie the gourds with thread if you like, but this isn't necessary.
In a shallow frying pan, heat a good glug of vegetable oil for shallow-frying and when the oil is hot enough, lower the heat and add the gourds in batches, frying for 7-8 minutes till it has a good colour on all sides, being careful not to brown it too much. Drain and repeat with the rest. Serve hot.