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Malabar Isthu with Pumpkin, Bitter Gourd & Cauliflower Recipe

Make this easy, creamy, and customizable Indian stew. The bitter melon goes well with many different vegetables.

| Fall 2019


This dish originates from Kerala. It is best compared to a stew and is deliciously creamy and slightly spicy. The bitter gourd (found in nearly every Indian store) adds a lovely bitter-sweet flavour, but if you can’t find it, you can use courgette (zucchini) or turnip. You can pair the gourd with almost any vegetable, so a great dish to use whatever veg you have lying around in your fridge!

Serves 4.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Ginger & Garlic Paste (see below)
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 80 g (3 oz) fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 500 mL (17 fl oz/2 cups) coconut milk
  • 150 g (5 oz) cauliflower florets
  • 150 g (5 oz) peeled and diced bitter gourd
  • 150 g (5 oz) peeled and diced pumpkin
  • 100 g (3-1/2 oz) tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt, to taste
  • sugar to taste
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the cloves and cinnamon stick and heat gently for 1–2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add the onions and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic paste, green chillies and curry leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk. Bring to the boil then add the cauliflower, gourd and pumpkin. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. Five minutes before serving, add the tomatoes and pepper, and season to taste with salt and sugar. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.

Ginger & Garlic Paste

I use this in all kinds of recipes as a basic flavouring and it’s so much better if you make your own, although ready-made pastes are handy if you are in a hurry.

Makes 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz).


  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) garlic cloves, peeled
  • 100–200 mL (3-1/2 –7 fl oz) vegetable oil


  1. Blitz the ginger and garlic in a blender, gradually adding enough oil to make a smooth paste.
  2. Store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to 2 weeks. You can also store the paste in a freeze-proof container, in the freezer.

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Cover courtesy of Hardie Grant Books 

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