Saturday, 13 September 2014

Loving Kerela

Kerela, mushroom and paneer masala

A few months ago I wrote about learning to love kerela, that strange vegetable that looks like a mad scientist’s experiment with a fish and a mouse.  I have since become enamoured of kerela, to the near point of addiction.  This vegetable, chock full of nutrients and healthy enzymes, is not for the faint of heart.  The bold taste of kerela is acquired, much like the taste for strong olives. 

This morning I was compelled to make it for my breakfast, I am that enamoured.  This amount is enough for three meal sized servings, or a family amount if served as a side dish.  Preparation time is about an hour and a half.

3 kerela, sliced
3 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons healthy oil (I used avocado oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 cinnamon stick
1 red onion, quartered and sliced
2 slices of ginger from the thickest part of the stem, matchsticked
2 chillies(or to taste) , finely chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon powdered mace
10 mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
a few splashes of water
½ cup diced paneer (Indian cheese available in South Asian aisles or markets)

Start early by slicing the kerelas into rounds.  You’ll see I have not removed the core.  Now I like the flavour too much, and I adore the crunch of the seeds.   Place slices onto a salted plate, and sprinkle more salt on top.  The salt helps to draw out some of the punchy bitterness, even though this dish will still have a strong punch. Set aside for an hour.
sliced kerela
Slice and salt an hour beforehand.

In a large frying pan, pour in oil and put on at medium heat.  Add the cinnamon stick, cumin and fennel seed and when fragrant, add onion and ginger.  

Cook, stirring occasionally, till the onion is translucent and starting to get golden.  Add the garam masala and mace and maybe a bit more oil if needed.  Fry for a minute or so, then add the mushrooms.  Space them out and let them get as much contact with the frying pan as possible so they get the chance to become golden and caramelized.  

Within about five minutes, stir in the garlic and continue to cook till mushrooms are mostly browned.  Add the pomegranate molasses and about a tablespoon of water if pan seems dry. 

Meanwhile, put those kerela slices into a colander and rinse well.  (They will still have a salty taste, so no need to add extra salt to this dish.)  Toss into the frying pan along with paneer.  Check for moisture again, adding another splash of water if the mix looks dry.  Cover and cook another ten or fifteen minutes on medium heat, till the kerela are soft.  
Does this look like a science experiment to you?  Mouse and fish combo?

I served these with a bit of yogurt and a chapatti, as I was feeling sorry for myself this morning.  (I had forgotten to buy milk for my morning coffee.)  

I don’t usually get so elaborate for my breakfasts, but this also served as my dinner tonight, and will serve again as breakfast tomorrow morning.  

I will again say this vegetable is for the honest and the bold.  If an olive is too much for you, this dish will finish you off.  But if you are stout hearted, enjoy!

Kerela, kurd and chappati breakfast
The yogurt tones it down a bit, and adds extra calcium and protein.

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