Pan-Fried Whole Bitter Melons with cashew stuffing
KAJU BHARA KARELA

-Recipe from Yamuna mataji

Salting and preparation time: about 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 stuffed bitter melons

8 baby bitter melons (about 12 ounces/340 g each), 2 -3 inches (6.5-7.5 cm) long
1 table spoons (22 ml) salt
table spoon (7 ml) sugar
3cups (710 ml) water
cup (75 g) cashew halves, blanched almonds or hazelnuts
3 table spoons (45 ml) shredded fresh coconut
          Or shredded frozen coconut, defrosted
table spoon (7 ml) dark brown sugar
teaspoon (2 ml) fennel seeds
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cumin seeds
1 table spoon (15 ml) coriander seeds
teaspoon (2 ml) turmeric
teaspoon (1 ml) cayenne pepper or paprika
cup (60 ml) plain yogurt
5 table spoons (75 ml) ghee or vegetable oil
Lime wedges for garnishing

1.    Wash and dry the bitter melons. With a sharp paring knife, slit lengthwise, cutting halfway through each. Using a small melon baler, scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard. Rub each melon inside and out with salt and sugar, and set aside for 30 minutes. Bring the water to a boil in a 2-quart/liter saucepan and partially cook for 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water. After cooling for 5 minutes, drain and pat thoroughly dry, inside and out.
2.    To make the stuffing, place the nuts, coconut, brown sugar, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover and pulse until the nuts are powdered. Transfer to a bowl and add the turmeric, cayenne or paprika and enough of the yogurt to make a moist stuffing. Divide into 8 portions.
3.    Using a butter knife, stuff each bitter melon, handling them carefully to avoid tearing the uncut side. Press the two cut melon edges together until they meet, then bind each one closed, wrapping them from one end to the other 5 or 6 times around with ordinary white sewing thread.
4.    Heat the ghee or oil in a 8-9 inch (20-22.5 cm) frying pan over moderate heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the melons in a single layer. After 2 minutes, reduce the heat slightly, then pan-fry, turning them as they brown, so that they are crisp and richly colored, about 20-25 minutes.
5.    Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Snip the thread and unwind, removing all loose pieces. Serve hot and crispy with lime wedges.