I was once again absent from cyberspace for obvious reasons – yes you got it right, the usual problem – my health. Thankfully my brother stepped in with the Mainland China post but now I am trying to get back in action. I have two good reasons to push myself; one is Indrani’s ongoing event and the other a request from my cyber friend, a film blogger, Harvey. Harvey requested a recipe with paanch phoron.
Most of you probably know what panch phoron is but all the same, for the uninitiated, here is the explanation- paanch means the number five and phoron is the Bengali word for tempering. For this tempering you need the following five ingredients in equal quantities – cumin seeds (jeera), fennel seeds (saunf), mustard seeds (rai or sarson), fenugreek seeds(methi) and nigella seeds (kalonji). Bengalis call it kalo jeeray or black cumin. For some strange reason grocers here in Bombay refer to nigella seeds as kanda ka bee or onion seeds. These are definitely not onion seeds but look similar to it but there is a difference in flavour.
A note of caution, I never actually learned to cook this dish from mum, so when I cooked it I was hoping I got it right and I think I did for it tasted almost like mum’s.
In the recipe given below I have not specified the measurements of the ingredients, it would be better to use your judgement. I have used three vegetables because that was what was immediately available but you can add some more – in fact more the merrier- what I mean is that the more vegetables you add the more flavoursome the preparation, but of course you cannot add just about any vegetable for instance you cannot add bitter gourd or bottle gourd. Besides drumsticks I have used potatoes and aubergine( eggplant/brinjal), you can also add red pumpkin and flat green beans – the ones we call paapdi in India.
Here is the recipe;
- Drumsticks, I took 3 drumsticks.
- Brinjal, I had a brinjal of approximately 300 odd grams.
- Potatoes, I took three potatoes.
- Tomato, I used one tomato.
- Paanch Phoron, I took roughly ¾ teaspoon of paanch phoron.
- Turmeric powder.
- Kashmiri red chilli powder, you can use any red chilli powder, I prefer the Kashmiri chilli.
- Salt to taste.
- Mustard paste (optional).
- Bengalis have a particular way in which they chop the vegetables for chochchori, my Ma used to say that a cook in a Bengali household is able to guess what is going to be cooked by just seeing the manner in which the vegetables have been chopped. However I have yet to get it right, I sort of manage.
- First chop off the two ends of the drumsticks and then chop the drumsticks into approximately 3 to 3 ½ inch pieces. Now with a sharp knife carefully strip off the outer green layer of the drumsticks. Most people do not remove the outer layer but Bengalis do.
- Chop the aubergine into longish pieces each piece about 2 inches long I never get it right, see below a picture of how my mother chopped the aubergine for a Bengali dish called Shukto.
- Peel and chop the potatoes (If the potato is of good quality there is no need to peel the potatoes, for this preparation Bengalis usually leave it unpeeled) as you would for finger chips only a little broader than the finger chips, check out this video, it is quite helpful, but for this recipe they could be chopped a bit broader.
- See the photo below and you will get a fair idea of how the vegetables have to be chopped
- Heat some oil in a vessel of your choice, we Bengalis use mustard oil.
- Stir fry the drumsticks and leave it aside.
- Now add the paanch phoron and wait for it to splutter.
- Add the potatoes and the aubergine.
- Stir fry the vegetables.
- When they are partially cooked add the drumsticks, chopped tomato and salt to taste, stir some more.
- Add a little turmeric powder and chilli powder.
- Now stir and keep it covered for a little while.
- Remove cover add a little water and cover and cook till done.
Most Bengalis add a little mustard paste but Ma sometimes did not add it and I found that the absence of the mustard paste did not in any way lessen the taste of the dish.
You can have it with steamed rice or phulka rotis.
Sending this to Indrani's event Spotlight: Winter Vegetables.