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(Bitter-melon stew)

Usually made with several types of vegetables, sukta derives its distinctive flavor from one vegetable in particular: karela, also known as bitter melon or bitter squash. Karela is usually available at oriental groceries. Çréla Prabhupäda appreciated its taste and health-giving qualities so much that he would sometimes carry a supply of dried karela with him when he traveled.

Preparation and cooking time: 45 min

2 or 3 karelas, green and firm
1 lb (450 g) each: cauliflower flowerets, washed and drained; potatoes, peeled and cubed; squash or eggplant, cubed; fresh peas, or green beans cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces
4 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
6 curry leaves (if not available, use 4 bay leaves)
3/4 cup (425 ml) water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 or 2 fresh chillies, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon panch masala
2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1 cup (250 ml) plain yogurt
21/2 teaspoon salt

Remove the seeds from the karelas and cut them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee over medium-high heat in a large saucepan (about 5 quarts / 5 l). Fry the fenugreek seeds for 30 seconds, then add the cut vegetables. Add the curry leaves (or bay leaves) and stir-fry the vegetables for 5 minutes, turning them gently with a wooden spoon. Now pour in half of the water, cover the pan, and allow to cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle or a small blender to grind together the cumin seeds, grated ginger, minced chillies, turmeric, and a few drops of water, to make a smooth masala paste. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a small saucepan and stir-fry the masala paste for a minute or two. Then add the panch masala, ground coriander, and asafoetida. Stir for a few seconds. Pour the remaining water into the seasonings and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Empty the liquid masala into the cooking vegetables and continue cooking over medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the vegetables are barely tender.
Lift the lid and fold in the yogurt, and salt. (If you like, you can add sada pakoras or bhajas at this point, but not later, as they need a few minutes of simmering to absorb some of the sauce and blend with the other ingredients). Stir and toss gently to mix the spices and sauce evenly with the vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes uncovered, then serve as a main dish with rice or an Indian bread.