11 September 2007

Cabbage curry with Bengali spices

Inspirations come in different ways. The inspiration to cook Bengali vegetarian food came after my visit to Oh! Calcutta - one of the more authentic Bengali cuisine restaurants in Bombay. S and I actually wrote down all that we had ordered in detail so that one of us could blog about it. We even fought over who'd write about it first. And then like how it happens sometimes, the paper got pushed inside a drawer and neither of us wrote about that brilliant meal that proved that Bengali food is not all 'phish' We had started with an amazing hyacinth beans patties steamed in banana leaves with tomato-khajurer chatni. The flavour was very unusual and just the perfect start to the meal. For the main course it was a chorchori - a mixed vegetable dish in mustard-green chilli gravy and a Alu-Pulkopi Daalna - Cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy gravy. We had this with plain rotis and ended the meal with Rosogulla in Payesh.Will you believe it if I told you we'd done this dinner almost 4-5 months ago and I still remember every single taste of that evening? That's how good it was.

The next step was to try and replicate some of these beauties in my kitchen for which I had to get hold on one special ingredient called Kalonji - Nigella seeds to make the Paach Phoron, since I had the other four ingredients in my pantry.
Paach Phoron is a typical Bengali whole spice mix made using 5 spices in equal proportion, namely-

Cumin seeds
Fennel seeds
Nigella seeds
Mustard seeds
Fenugreek seeds

You might have tasted all these spices individually, but mix them up and you will discover and entirely new zone of flavour, something heavenly that you have to taste to understand. The first time I'd got hold of some ready made Paach phoron that my friend got for me from Kolkotta, I was so addicted to this taste that I used to add it to any vegetable dish. This simple cabbage saute I made yesterday is truly Bengal inspired. It uses both paach phoron in the tempering and mustard powder for extra flavour, some slivers of green chillies and that's all there is to it.

Cabbage curry with Bengali Spices
Time taken: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
Category: Indian side, Vegetables

3 cups shredded cabbage - tightly packed
1-2 tsp vegetable oil or mustard oil
1 tsp paach phoron [see above]
2 light green chillies, deseeded and diagonally sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coarsely ground mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a heavy based wok, take 1 tsp oil. Once moderately hot splutter the spice mix (paach phoron). Saute the chillies for a few seconds.
Add the shredded cabbage with salt and turmeric powder - on a low flame, saute every 2 minutes or so, until the cabbage is almost cooked buy maintaining slight crispness.
At this stage, sprinkle the mustard powder and saute for a minute or so.
Serve hot with rotis or a bowl of curd for a light / low-cal lunch.

Check what Haalo has to say about Paach Phoron and she has some eye-catching pics of the spices there too.

This one goes to Sunita's event - Think Spice: Think Mustard


bee said...

panch phoron is a unique wonderful blend of spice. it is particularly good with chana dal. i don't like cabbage, but your pic looks enticing.

Swapna said...

I know what u mean by remembering the taste long after you have eaten at a particular place. I remember taste of dishes that I had eaten a year back:)
Cabbage curry looks good. I yet have to try panch phoron.
As for cabbage, I never cook it. It's hubby's job:)

musical said...

Oh! Calcutta sounds like a good restaurant! and this is a simple and delightful cabbage recipe, Nandita! i usually make mine with mustard and ginger. will try next time with paanch phoron.

bonziegal said...

Hey Nanditha,

Can you please precisely post the recipe for Paach Phoron? Do you coarse-grind or fine-grind it or not grind it at all? Do you roast the five spices before grinding?


Roopa said...

cabbage curry with panch phoron looks delicious! nice entry !

Sreelu said...

Nanditha, always had panch pooran with aloo, this is a nice variation,pic looks great

Cynthia said...

With the exception of the mustard powder, I have all these ingredients and will definitely try this soon. Thanks, Nandita.

A kitchen scientist & a white rat hubby!!! said...

Hi Nandita,
I had sent in an email with my 2 entries to the WBB #15. Got no reply from you..did u receive it?

Raaga said...

This is exactly the cabbage dish I learnt from my SIL :-) glad to have the recipe written down in one of my fave blogs :-)

Rajitha said...

Nandita.. i love cabbage.. but make it like thoran or just stir fry with jeera..this is a good option too..love panch phoran..u are right, this takes u to another dimention in cooking...love that photo..bright and clear..

Jyothsna said...

The picture is very good! Do you have the recipe for tomato khajurer chutney too?

Kavitha said...

I sure wud give it a try..I dont have yellow mustard seeds..Only black ones..will that do?

Nandita said...

Bee- we seem to share similar tastes in food, try this, keeping the cabbage slightly crisp - i think you'll like it.

Swapna - you can always pass on the recipe to your cabbage specialist :)

Musical- aapko achcha lagega!

Bonziegal- no roasting/powdering required...just mix a teaspoon of each of the five seeds and keep in a small jar. Since this is tempered in oil, needs no roasting as when they are dropped in oil, the flavours get extracted into the hot oil which further coats the veggies.

Roopa/Sreelu/Cynthia- thanks girls. Cynthia, if you have mustard seeds, then all you need to do is dry roast them for a bit ina wok and crush them with a rolling pin or so to get the powder. Very simple.

Nandita said...

Scientist-replied to you on your blog too, that i havent recd any mails from you. Please send again and in case i do not receive, shall pick them up from your blog.

Raaga- with our similar likes, im sure you'll like it too :)

Rajitha- Glad you liked it.

Jyothsana- Haven't made that home but can surely find out and let you know.

Kavitha- I've used black ones...so no problem, even my mustard powder is made from black mustard seeds.

sunita said...

Hi Nandita, thanks for the lovely entry...we happened to live in Kolkata for 1 and 1/2 years and can quite understand the taste of all those wonderful dishes that you mentioned :)

bonziegal said...

Thanks for replying to my query! I am delighted and can barely wait to try out veggie dishes with paach phoron! :)


Aaarti said...

Hey nandita

Yumm,shall sure try this tonight.. i love cabbbage...

butw what is Nigella seeds??? do we get it here?tamil or english name?

Also do you know what Aamsul is???:(


zlamushka said...

Hi Nandita,
I just posted a recipe for a Chinese "five spice"... Different taste, but nice coincidence. I likecabbage dishes a lot, so will keeep this one in my "winter food" colletcion

Shalini said...

Hi Nandita,
Tried this recipe last week.Was a hit.My hubby is a Bong;you can imagine how happy he was to smell the mustard oil and paanch phoron:)

Saju said...

I love your recipe for cabbage, am going to make it at the weekend.

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