Kut-hal or Kat-hal ki Rasedar Sabji
This recipe is from my late mum. All of us siblings used to love it, whenever she made it.
Kathal, pronounced as kut-hull, is called Jack-fruit in English, botanical name Artocarpus heterophyllusis. It is often referred to as 'vegetarian meat', because of its meat like texture. It is very similar to Breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis. It originates from the North West and West India. The trees are large, reaching up to 25 metre in height, with shiny green leaves, very easily recognisable. It grows in parts of India where soil is never too dry and the climate is temperate. Fruits very in size, some up to 30 kilos. The unripe fruit has a green, spiky skin. In Northern India, creamy white, crisp flesh of an unripe jack-fruit is cooked as a vegetable. It is often called 'meat of vegetarians' because of it's fibrous, meat like texture. In Western India/Bangladesh, it is mainly eaten when ripe, as a fruit. Ripe fruit has yellowish flesh and a rather foul smell, but it tastes delicious!
Jack-fruit is good for making curries only when it is green (not ripe). This particular dish was very popular in our house and it is one of my favourites. Whenever I visit India, my mum and sister try to get hold of some and cook it for me.
Edited May 2022
700 gm. fresh green jack-fruit. It is difficult to find fresh, green ones in the West. Tinned GREEN jack-fruit can be used instead but make sure it is the green one and not the ripe one.
Oil for deep frying
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2-3 cloves of garlic (optional), peeled
2 medium tomatoes, chopped finely or 200 gm. tinned tomatoes
3-4 tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 large cardamoms
5-6 black peppers
1 small pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. chilli powder
1 tsp. of coriander powder
Salt to taste
A handful of chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
Wear gloves when handling raw Jack-fruit. It has very sticky, milk like sap that glues to the hands and leaves permanent stains on clothes.
Cut jack-fruit into thick slices and take a thick layer of skin off, leaving approximately 1/2 cm. smooth, white flesh over the white fibrous part. Often grocers will do this for you, specially in India.
Cut into 2 inch cubes. If using tinned jackfruit, let the liquid drain completely. Otherwise oil will splatter everywhere during next step.
Heat oil in a wok and deep fry these pieces, until light golden brown. Keep aside.*
Wash and peel onions, ginger and garlic and grind together in a food processor or chop finely by hand.
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida powder, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, black peppers, cloves and cardamom. Let the cumin seeds splutter.
Add onion, ginger and garlic paste and fry until golden to dark brown (not burnt).
Add all powdered spices, except garam masala and stir for 10 seconds, to release flavours.
Add tomatoes and stir fry until oil separates and the mix looks shiny.
Add jack fruit, stir well to coat all pieces with spices.
Add just enough water to cover the vegetable. You want to aim at a thick...ish gravy/sauce.
Bring to boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or give one pressure in pressure cooker.
Cool pressure cooker before opening. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with coriander leaves.
*If you don't like fried food, you can lightly steam or boil the flesh at step 4, but the fried one tastes better.