Bengalese kamut and coconut stuffing

June 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Derek's faves, Grains, Indian, Rebecca Wood)

This post was originally entitled Grilled bitter melon stuffed with kamut and coconut.  The bitter melon was a disaster, but the Indian-flavored stuffing was quite tasty, and I finally got around to making it again, over five years later.  Rebecca Wood says the flavorings are a mix of New Mexican and Bengalese, but I get more of an Indian vibe than a New Mexican one.  I served this as a side dish with roasted cauliflower, but it would also be good as a stuffing for other veggies:  cabbage leaves, small pumpkins, summer squash…


  • 1.5 cups uncooked kamut (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2?? tsp. sea salt
  • 1 Tbs. butter (optional)
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted Ghee (or butter)
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1? tsp. turmeric
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapenos, minced
  • 4 Tbs. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 4 Tbs. toasted pine nuts (more would also be good)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3/4? cup cilantro


  1. In a 2 quart skillet over high heat, toast the kamut, stirring constantly until it turns a shade darker, becomes fragrant, and starts to pop.  (She says 4 minutes, it took mine a lot longer.)  Then rinse it and drain well.  Add 2 1/4 cups water to the pot with the kamut.  Let soak at least one hour, or overnight.
  2. Bring the kamut, soaking water, salt, and butter (if using) to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 to 2 hours (depending on soaking time).  The liquid should be absorbed and the grains should be tender but still a bit chewy.  Remove from the heat and let steam, covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corinader, cumin, cardamom, and  turmeric. Saute for about 2 minutes, or until the spices release their aroma and are a shade darker.
  4. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until limp.
  5. Add the jalapeno, pine nuts, coconut, and kamut. Saute for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cilantro.

My notes:

I actually used only 3/4 tsp. of each of the spices, and forgot to add turmeric.  It was very tasty but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more spice, so I increased all the amounts to 1 tsp. in the recipe above.  Still the seasoning to kamut ratio in my recipe is quite a bit lower than in Wood’s original recipe (see below).  Her recipe calls for more butter, spices, onions, jalapenos, onions, coconut, pine nuts…  Really I should have multiplied everything by 6, but since I was using this recipe as a side dish rather than as a stuffing I figured it didn’t need to be as strongly flavored and I could reduce the seasoning quite a bit.

The dish turned out well.  The pine nuts look quite similar to the kamut, so it’s a bit of a surprise when you bit into one and discover that it’s not kamut after all!  The coconut and Indian spices go really well with the nutty, chewy kamut.  Derek loved this recipe.

Rating: B

Derek: A-

Original post from Apr 10, 2006:

Grilled bitter melon stuffed with kamut and coconut

I had seen these strange “gourds” in the Indian grocery but never knew what they were. They reminded me a little of green vegetable sea slugs. Then I was looking for a kamut recipe and found this fascinating recipe in Rebecca Wood’s cookbook The Splendid Grain: bitter melons stuffed with kamut and coconut. I read about bitter melons (also called bitter gourd or balsam pears) and discovered they’re very nutritious. says that “Bitter Melons are rich in iron, they have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain Vitamins A, C, B1 to B3, phosphorus, and good dietary fiber.” The reason they’re bitter is that they have a lot of quinine in them, which is one reason they’re considered healthy in tropical climates.

So I bought some of these funny nobby bizarre looking “gourds” for the first time, from Kholi’s. The recipe says to cut off the ends, and stick a chopstick or a finger through the gourd to pull out all the seeds and create a channel that can be stuffed. First two went fine. It was actually kind of fun pulling the seeds out! Then the third one. I stuck my finger in… and out came… blood! No wait, it’s red, it looks like blood, but… what is it… is it supposed to look like that? The first two had pale yellow seeds and stringy squash stuff, but the next two had these bright red seeds and stringy stuff that looked a whole lot like blood. As a lifetime vegetarian, I felt utterly disgusted. I felt like I was pulling the innards out of some poor little nobby green cute-as-an-ugly-button squash. I felt like a traitor.

See some pictures hereof the outside (except mine are pale green not yellow) and the blood-seeds!

I wished someone had warned me about the color thing! I think the last ones were different than the first ones because they were more ripe: the less ripe ones have yellow seeds and the more ripe ones turn red. This picture shows the growth stages253

I had to let them sit overnight so I had a while to come to terms with my actions before the final act of bitter gourd murder. Anyway, here is the recipe:

Makes 20 appetizer servings

5 bitter melons (4 to 5 inches each)
2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbs. sucanat or light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. unsalted butter or Ghee
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 small onion, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 tbs. unsweetened coconut flakes
2 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup steamed kamut
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro

Cut both ends from the melons and, with your fingers, push the inner core of seeds to one end. Discard the melon tips, which tend to be particularly bitter, and the seeds. With a chopstick, finger, or the handle of a wooden spoon, push out all of the seeds to create a hollow channel.

Combine the salt, sucanant, 1/4 tsp. of the turmeric, and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into the core of each melon. Place the melons on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Gently squeeze the melons to extract as much juice as possible, taking care not to crush them. Rinse thoroughly. Drain and set aside.

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the corinader, cumin, cardamom, and the remaining turmeric. Saute for about 2 minutes, or until the spices release their aroma and are a shade darker. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until limp. Add the jalapeno, pine nuts, coconut, and kamut. Saute for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cilantro and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Preheat the grill or broiler.

Divide the kamut mixture in five and tightly pack each melon center.

Place the melons over a medium-hot grill and grill, turning frequently for about 8 minutes, or until evenly browned. Remove from the heat. If you don’t have a grill panfry the stuffed melons in a skillet with 2 Tbs. ghee.

When cool enough to handle, slice each melon into 4 rounds. Arrange on a platter. Serve while still warm.

I was worried about the gourds being bitter so I soaked them in cold water for 30 minutes after removing them from the fridge. Also, I put them under the broiler rather than grilling them.

The filling is rich but delicious. I had extra filling and my guests proceeded to sit there with a spoon and down it in just a few minutes. The stuffed gourds were beautiful. It was truly an exotic looking appetizer. Hard to eat though because the filling would come out if you weren’t careful. The bitterness level of the different gourds varied dramatically. I’m not sure if it was because some were cooked better than others, or if it just depended on how ripe they were to begin with. Some were inedible. One bite was seriously painful. Others were very bitter, but edible. I ate a few bits and my guests were polite enough to taste them, but most of it got thrown out unfortunately.

However, I love the filling and the presentation so much that I do want to try making these again, if I can figure out how to make them less bitter. I think I’m going to try blanching them next time, and using more filling per piece. My guests thought if I blanched them they might be too soft to stuff and cut into pieces, and that I might be better off cutting them in half and stuffing them like zucchini boats. I’ll consider it.

Rating: D


  1. Amy said,

    Hi Rose! I love your blog. My husband grew up eating bitter melon in India and really likes the taste… whereas I have a hard time with it. I make it for him from time to time. I cut up the pieces and salt them to draw out some of the bitterness, then rinse them and saute them over medium high heat with garlic, onion, potatoes and whatever Indian spices I feel like throwing in (cumin, black pepper, aleppo or dundicut peppers, mustard seeds, little turmeric, some garam masala at the end). I have no idea how authentic it is but he likes it anyway. We eat it with plain yogurt on the side to temper the bitterness.

  2. Harsimrat Kaur Khalsa said,

    I like to eat it raw. If I scrape the skin, then iti’s good in scrambled eggs.

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