Saturday, February 21, 2009

Panchphoran Potatoes and Kale

I've been doing a lot of lurking on food blogs recently and have noticed various contests going on and thought it'd be fun to participate in one of them. One of the contests is BSI, which stands for Blogger Secret Ingredient. So particpants prepare a dish based on that week's secret ingredient.

Beadie over at What I Ate Yesterday is hosting this week's BSI contest and has chosen kale as the ingredient. I thought this would be a great opportunity to try my hand at one of these contests. Plus I've never eaten or prepared kale before, so that makes it even more interesting!

Since kale belongs to the same family as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli, and I like all three of those vegetables I felt good about trying it out. I thought I'd stick to somewhat familiar terrain and prepare it with Indian spices.

Panchphoran is a typically Bengali spice blend that consists of five spices -- hence the name, since "panch" means five. The spices that make up panchphoran are fenugreek, cumin, mustard, fennel, and nigella. The spices are in whole form and are mixed in equal proportion.

In our family, we didn't use it a whole lot as far as I can remember. My mom would make a few vegetable dishes with it. When I started cooking, the first time I used it was to try a recipe for Achaar Gosht, which is beef cooked in Indian pickling spices -- the spices all happened to be ingredients in panchphoran so I used that.

Anyway, I've recently tried to make the vegetable dish that my mom made that used panchphoran in it. In our family we typically called most mixed vegetable dishes "bhaji." The last couple times I've gone home I've watched my mom make it and wrote down what she did and tried to recreate it, with no success. For some reason I couldn't get the hang of tempering the panchphoran properly. You have to get the oil hot enough so that the spices crackle but you don't want to burn the spices and everything else that goes in the pan.

When I decided to prepare a bhaji today using kale, I didn't have high hopes given my past success rate. But surprisingly, it turned out pretty good! I ended up buying a small bunch of kale at Publix since I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. I had some leftover baby yukon gold potatoes from last week's Valentine's Day dinner, so that went in as well.

I've called the recipe Panchphoran Potatoes and Kale, but you could use any kind of vegetable you want. If I were talking about this dish with my family, I would just call it an aloo and kale bhaji.

Panchphoran Potatoes and Kale/Aloo and Kale Bhaji

2 tbps. canola oil
1 heaping teaspoon panchphoran
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. minced ginger paste
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
salt to taste
1 cup potato, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 small bunch kale, rinsed, cut into small pieces

Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat. Toss in a spice or two to see if the oil is hot enough -- the spices should sputter and pop. When the oil is hot enough, add the panchphoran, and stir, letting it sputter and pop for a few seconds.

Reduce the heat to medium high and add the onions, stirring constantly. Be very vigilant so that the spices and onion don't burn - reduce the heat if necessary. Cook until the onions begin to turn brown, then add the ginger and garlic. Keep stirring, add the ground cumin.

Carefully add the potato and kale, stirring to combine thoroughly. Add some salt, then add about 1/4 cup water so that the vegetables and spices don't stick to the pan.

Lower the heat to about medium low, cover, and let cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Check every now and then to stir and add water as needed. Once the vegetables are done, taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Makes 2-4 servings, depending on how much you like veggies!


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