Can Cook, Must Cook

The food adventures of Franka P, a Trinidadian journalist living in London, UK. I'll write about my forays into all types of food and cooking, particularly Caribbean food. I'll also review books and recipes by the leading food writers and talk about the issues making headlines in the gastronomic world.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bittersweet delights

I've not given up on blogging my dears, it's just been really hectic in the last week.
But in between an intensive project management course, loads of meetings and trying to work my body into shape, I still managed to get some reading and cooking done!
I'm almost through reading English Food by Jane Grigson.
Jane Grigson is hailed as one of the UK's best ever food writers and her books are recommended reading for any serious foodie. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1990 but she left the food world with some real classics.
I was struck by the robustness of her writing, the depth of her research and the breadth of the recipes in this book.
And I was pleasantly surprised to see a recipe that included one of my favourite vegetables: the much maligned carilli or bitter melon.

Carilli (Mormordica charantia) is a bumpy green gourd that's not exactly the easiest thing to eat because it's soooooo bitter.
In Trinidad, lots of people dismiss carilli as 'poor food'. But it's actually quite a delicacy among the East Indians and Chinese.
I remember my father used to boil carilli and drink the resulting yucky bitter tea to help his high blood pressure. It wasn't until much later however, that I discovered how a bit of seasoning and cooking could transform this ugly and bitter gourd into a fantastic dish.
Jane Grigson's recipe for carilli - she calls it kerala, like the Asians do here - is Three Gourd Garnish which she recommends as a wonderful accompaniment for smoked chicken, roast duck or lamb. She says it also goes well with salmon and firm white fish.
Here's her recipe which serves six.

4 small to medium caralli
8-12 small courgettes or zucchinis, halved lengthways
Half a cucumber
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons mixed chopped parsley, coriander and chives
Slightly salted butter

Halve the carilli, scrape out the seeds and remove the white pulp. Slice thinly and soak in salt water for at at least an hour to remove some of the bitterness.
Blanch for three minutes, drain and set aside.
Cook the courgettes gently in some butter with a pinch each of garlic and black pepper in a covered pan. Peel and slice the cucumber in long thin strips, fry briefly to heat through and soften slightly. Finish the carilli in a little butter with a pinch of garlic and pepper.
Arrange to one side of a serving dish, beside the poultry, lamb or fish. Keep warm while you toss the remaining garlic and the caralli seeds in a knod of butter to heat through. Add herbs and pour over the dish.

I'm going to try this recipe once I could put my hand on some caralli but I'm not too sure about using the seeds in the way Grigson suggests. Maybe if someone knows about this, they can drop me a line and let me know.

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  • At 01:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is not the way East Indians cook it.


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