The more I explore the cuisines of the States of India, the more I am amazed at the sheer variety of ingredients and the flavours they produce. Take this Panch Phoron Kaddu Sabzi for example. A Pumpkin Curry flavoured with the famous Indian 5 spice blend, panch phoron, and with the addition of yellow mustard powder in the gravy, is so simple to make and yet has such complex flavours. Add the aroma that wafts through the house as the Panch phoran sizzles in the hot oil, and you realise why you love cooking and experimenting with new combinations and tastes.
This month, my favourite Food Blogger group, Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge took Jharkhand as its theme. More about the group later, but we are cooking our way alphabetically through the cuisines of each of the Indian States, and are now at the Js, so Jharkhand it is. The cuisine of Jharkhand has developed from many of its neighbouring Sates, influenced by Mughlai, Bhojpuri, Mauryan, Gupta, Bengali, Bihari, UP and other styles of cooking. The interesting indigenous Jharkhand cuisine, viz Tribal Food, is one that I have not yet ventured into, but it sounds fascinating – red rice, dhal, bamboo shoots, saag from the leaves of the moringa tree, sabzi from flowers of the moringa and jute plants, and many more interesting dishes which I hope to explore soon.
I have been wanting to cook with Panch phoran (pachforen, pachphoran, as it is variously called), the blend of 5 spices famously used in Bengali cooking and that of Eastern India. I had thought this was some exotic set of spices and was quite surprised to find that it is just some of the staple spices found in an Indian kitchen cupboard, mixed and added simultaneously to hot oil, instead of one by one as we usually do while making the ‘tadka’ or tempering.
The panchphoron I have used in the Panch Phoron Kaddu Sabzi is comprised of mustard seeds, methi/ fenugreek seeds, saunf/ fennel seeds, nigella/onion seeds/ kalaunji and cumin/ jeera seeds. Some recipes that I browsed use ajwain instead of onion seeds in the panchphoron, and, as is usual in India, there may be more variations of the basic blend.
The panchphoron is a heady mix when you add it to oil, and it gives the plain pumpkin an exotic taste. I have further compounded the mustard effect by cooking in mustard oil, as is usual in much of Northern and Eastern India, as well as by adding yellow mustard powder to the gravy of pureed onion and tomato.
This curry is meant to be mustardy, but if you are not too fond of the flavour, you can reduce the quantity of yellow mustard powder and even cook in sunflower or other mild vegetable oil instead of mustard oil. That would make the curry different from my panch phoron kaddu sabzi, but would be tasty all the same.
The Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group is a Bloggers group on FB. Every month we decide a theme and the members are paired. The members of a pair suggests 2 ingredients which fit into the theme, to her partner. Each of us prepare our dish, making sure these 2 ingredients, that are now the secret ingredients, are included in the recipe. We then post a picture of the food we have made and all the other members try to guess the secret ingredients.
My partner for the month, the talented blogger, Jagruti Dhanecha, gave me Pumpkin and Mustard as my secret ingredients, and hence my dish for the month: Panch Phoron Kaddu Sabzi.
Jagruti blogs at Jagruti’s Cooking Odyssey. I have been following her blog posts for the last 3 years, and have been enjoying her food styling, photography and the recipes. If you visit her blog (please do!) you will see the range of recipes, from Harry Potters favourite ButterBeer to Badami Methi Mango Paneer; from traditional Indian to food from a dozen countries.
For this month’s challenge with the Jharkhand cuisine theme, I suggested Lauki (bottle gourd) and turmeric for Jagruti’s secret ingredients, and she turned out this gorgeous looking Aloo Lauki Stew. Lauki and gorgeous? Yes, Jagruti managed to do that! Do check out the post at Aloo Lauki Stew