Dry, mildly spiced spinach cooked with seasonal pumpkin, radish, broadbeans, and brinjals

Palong shaak’er ghonto is a kind of panchmishali torkari in that it uses an assortment of vegetables—potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, moolo (radish), sheem (broad beans), and brinjal—besides the spinach (palong / palak). As the illustrious roll-call of ingredients suggests,this palong shaak recipe brings together flavours, textures (and don’t forget nutrients) from a variety of sources. This particular Bengali vegetarian preparation is a herbivore’s delight, although it is enjoyed by omnivores in equal measure. What’s more, this spinach curry is several times more tasty than the regular palong shaak bhaji.

This dish is a ‘ghonto’, a dry curry. Here, the vegetables are steamed in their own juices until they are soft, exactly like in panchmishali torkari. There’s not much to this recipe in terms of spices or technique. Sparsely spiced with just turmeric and cumin powder, this recipe relies on salt and sugar to help draw the moisture and flavours from the vegetables. They cook on low heat, covered, for about 40 to 45 minutes (don’t forget to stir regularly to prevent sticking), enabling the juices from the veggies to mingle together to produce a unique-tasting dish.

When wintry greens are crisp and in season, there is no better use for spinach than making this delicious (did we say nutritious?) palong shaak’er ghonto, which can be served with steaming rice and dal.


COOKING TIME 1 hour 15 minutes
YIELDS 5 servings
CALORIES 163 kcal per serving


Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
300 g Palong shaak (spinach)
60 g Potatoes (4-cm cubes)
60 g Sweet potatoes (4-cm cubes)
150 g Pumpkin (4-cm cubes)
80 g Moolo (radish; 4-cm long)
60 g Sheem (5-cm long)
150 g Brinjal (5-cm long)
45 g Mustard oil
2 pcs Dried red chillies
2 pcs Bay leaves
½ tsp Kaalo jeere (nigella seeds)
2 g Turmeric powder
½ tsp Cumin powder
7 g Salt
15 g Sugar
10 pcs Dal’er bori
1 pc Green chilli
15 g Coriander leaves

Equipment

  • Kadai | frying pan (with lid)
  • Khunti | long spatula

Appliances

  • Stove

Method

  1. Spinach contains a lot of soil and dirt. Get rid of these by first soaking it in water for at least 15 minutes, and then rinsing it thoroughly several times before spreading it out to air-dry. Now, separate the leaves and stalks. If the stalks are long, chop them roughly into 6-cm segments. Pile the spinach (leaves and stalks) into a pan with 2 g salt. Cover and set it on medium heat to steam for around 8 minutes. The salt and heat will draw water from the spinach leaves, making them limp.
  2. Chop the potatoes, sweet potatoes, radish, and pumpkin into 4-cm cubes, and brinjal and sheem into 5-cm long pieces.
  3. Heat mustard oil in a pan. Add the bori and fry on medium heat until they turn golden (about 20 seconds). Remove from the oil and set aside. In the same oil, fry the brinjal until they are golden (4 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  4. If the oil has been absorbed by the brinjal, add about 10 g more oil to the pan. Temper it with dried red chillies, bay leave, and kaalo jeere.
  5. Add the potatoes and fry them on low heat, covered, for about 3 minutes. Uncover the pan at regular intervals and give them a stir, so that they fry evenly on all sides. Now, at 3 to 4 minute intervals, add each of the vegetables one at a time, in the following order: first, the sweet potatoes and pumpkin together, followed by radish, and finally the sheem. Throughout this process, keep the heat low, pan covered, and stir intermittently.
  6. Fry all the vegetables together for about 3 more minutes before adding the remaining salt (5 g), turmeric, and cumin powder.
  7. After another 3 minutes, lightly squeeze water from the steamed spinach leaves, and add the leaves and stalk to the pan. Cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, before adding the sugar. Salt and sugar should, together, draw moisture from the vegetables. Cook them on low heat until the vegetables are tender (this should take another 10 to 15 minutes).
  8. Meanwhile, break the fried bori roughly into shards, and chop up the coriander leaves. Add bori to the pan, along with the fried brinjal. Cover and cook for about 4 minutes to allow bori and brinjal to soak up the juices.
  9. Finally, add a slit green chilli and coriander to the pan. Give everything one last stir. Turn off heat, rest the pan for two minutes, before serving.

Served with