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Tasty tarbooj

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It’s an unlikely combination, but try the sweet, juicy flavours of a watermelon curry

What is a curry? It is an age-old question that has been debated far and beyond with no hope of an answer in sight!

As far as Wikipedia goes, there is a definitive meaning to a curry: ‘Curry is a dish whose origins are in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. The common feature is the incorporation of complex combinations of spices or herbs, usually including fresh or dried hot chillies.’

Now, the history of the term ‘curry’ is also very interesting. The word was coined by the British Raj for the thick, meaty stews that were resplendent with spices and herbs. Some say that this is derived from the Tamil word ‘kari’ which usually denotes meat. So if you head down to Tamil Nadu and say kari, it actually means meat pieces rather than ‘curry’.

There are a couple of other explanations too, but all of these are vague and in disagreement, so I guess we will never know the real history.

It’s the same story with ‘curry powder’. Traditionally, Indians don’t use any spice blend called curry powder while the rest of the world uses it in tonnes.

For an Indian, a curry practically denotes any dish which has a gravy to it. And when the dish does not have a traditional name, we call it a curry.

This recipe is for a watermelon curry. Yes, you heard right – a watermelon curry; rind and all!

This curry is a far cry from the rich, spicy gravies. The watermelon curry is a famous dish of Rajasthan and can be enjoyed with both phulkas (Indian wheat flat bread) and rice.

Yes, there is sweetness from the watermelon, but then there is a whole lot of flavour from the spices that penetrate deep into the melon pieces to give you a delicious, refreshing and light dish.

This is a curry that stands as a perfect example to the fact that spices do not mean heat but flavour. The cumin, carom seeds, nigella seeds and dried chillies release all their flavour into the oil and cut into the sweetness of the melon pieces. The soft rind of the watermelon adds just the right amount of bite and texture to an otherwise soft dish.

The most beautiful part of this curry is the fact that you can use the rind part of the watermelon. Usually cut out in chunks and thrown away, the watermelon rind can be delicious if cooked in the right manner. It is juicy, succulent and moist, absorbing every bit of the flavour like a sponge.

Next time, think twice before cutting away the rind. Add it to the curries that you make at home, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, and enjoy the deliciousness of the humble rind.

WATERMELON CURRY

INGREDIENTS

1kg seedless watermelon with rind
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp ajwain/carom seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)
3 dried red chillies, broken into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt, to season
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

METHOD

Cut the outer dark green layer of the watermelon rind keeping the inner whitish-green rind intact. Remove the red flesh of the watermelon from the whitish rind; dice both separately and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices; ajwain, cumin, nigella and dry red chillies. When fragrant, add the garlic and sauté on medium heat for about 30 seconds.

Add the watermelon rind pieces and turmeric powder, mix well and season with salt. Cover and look for about 6-7 minutes till the rind has browned and softened. Do not add any water.

In the meantime, blitz half the watermelon flesh pieces and keep aside.

After 7 minutes, add the blitzed watermelon pulp and ½ cup water; mix to combine and cook covered till the rind has become tender.

Then add the remaining flesh pieces and cook on high for 3-4 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm.

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