Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Palang Shaak er Ghonto (Spinach Mixed Vegetable Medley)

Today is the last day of the challenge and I am posting a recipe from West Bengal. Every day this month I have posted a recipe from a different state in India.

The goal was to blog a dish from a different state in India every day of the month of April, starting with the state of Andhra Pradesh and ending with West Bengal. It was especially interesting for me as I have not lived in India for a very long time.

All the dishes had to be prepared in advance to ensure a timely printable blog post with pictures. Recipes gathered over the years from friends, colleagues and neighbors were sought out and (re)tried. For a few states the recipes had to be gathered from the web. For at least two states cloudy weather dictated a do over while for three other states a do over was needed as the recipe turned out to be too simple. For two states the recipe was a disaster and had to be scrapped completely. Through this whole process my family was very supportive. They loved trying out the new dishes and enjoyed the tried and tested ones.

Back to West Bengal. When I was in second grade I was picked for a mini-play to be performed during the annual day function. The play had two characters, a cat and a mouse. I was the cat and I was supposed to sweet talk the mouse until the end when I pounced and ate it. During the play the cat and the mouse sing and dance. The girl who played mouse was Bengali and her Mom suggested this song: Ore Bhai Phagun Legeche for us to dance to. I used to hum the catchy tune for years until one day I googled it. That is when I found out that it was penned by Rabindranath Tagore and is part of what is popularly known as Rabindra sangeet.

We had a large Bengali community in town and they put up a grand show during Durga puja, the navratri festival. The idols were specially shipped from Bengal and the whole town showed up at the old Nataraj Theater to watch the cultural program. It was a treat.

Sweets from Bengal are very popular and well known. But after making so many sweet dishes for other states I was craving something savory. Something that did not go overboard with oil and spices. I found Palang Shaak er Ghonto is a popular mixed vegetable side. What I really like about this dish is the sparingly used spices. Paanch phoron (fenugreek, fennel, nigella, mustard and cumin seeds) and a little cumin powder is all that is used. I adapted this recipe from here.

You will need
1 large potato
1 cup cubed yellow pumpkin
2 cups chopped spinach
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. paanch phoron (a mixture of fenugreek, fennel, nigella, mustard and cumin seeds)
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 dried red chili pepper

Wash, peel and chop the potato into cubes. Heat oil in a pan and add the paanch phoron. When the mustard seeds crackle add the red chili pepper and the potatoes. Sprinkle a little if needed, cover and let the potatoes cook for about 4-5 minutes.

Add the pumpkin cubes to the pan and let it cook for another 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle a little more water if needed. Cook until the potatoes and pumpkin are tender but not mushy.

Add the spinach and cumin powder. Season with salt. Add a little water and let it all cook until the spinach is done.


This month long journey started out as just a challenge but became very personal very quickly. For most of the states I found I could picture a friendly familiar face or an anecdote connected with the state. Some recipes brought back very happy memories not related to food. And the aroma of some recipes took me back decades to my childhood. I came to realize how blessed my growing years were, I was exposed to so many different sub cultures within India. I also realized that as an adult I built on that foundation and formed a circle of friends that came from all over the world. To me that was the biggest take away from this challenge. Through this month I shared this personal experience with you.

This is my entry for day 30 of BM #39 for the state of West Bengal. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#39.


  1. such a simple and elegant one!! perfect color combo!!

  2. nice choice to end on a simple and delectable dish Varada....It was fun doing this marathon with you for 30 days and got such wonderful glimpses of the many states that you had either visited or were associated back from your childhood, i loved to read about them and enjoy the beautiful dishes you made. You and me probably share a lot in common in terms of profression and hobbies and also personal backgrounds so it is good to see there are likeminded heads even if in different part of the world...will hope to catch up again soon...

  3. Wat a healthy side dish to enjoy with some rotis, yes this mega marathon is something special and pulled us to go through many different cuisines and helped us to learn different dishes surely. Enjoyed all ur posts Varada especially ur intros are just tremendous.

  4. Wow Varada this is delicious. I have already said that it was a great marathon. I loved it with you in there. We started as casual acquaintances with a love for food. Now I will like to think of you as a very good friend.

  5. nice and healthy!..its been a great marathon with some wonderful posts from you...i have loved the way you have included some arts and crafts, pics in your post , they make it so very interesting.

  6. Very interesting and healthy recipe there! Glad to travel with you Varada.

  7. Such a simple, healthy and delicious Bengali dish. Loved reading all your posts in this series Varada. Thank you for showcasing the local artworks and crafts.. It was fun doing the marathon along with you :-)

  8. Varada, thank you for the wonderful treat through the month. I know how hard it must have been, not having lived in India for such a long time, yet you pulled in your friends, relatives. I enjoyed all the dishes you did, some were so new and some with different take.. Great job and this bengali dish sounds so simple..

  9. Such a simple and delicious dish,glad to be a part of this marathon with you...

  10. simple and fresh flavours.. great combination..

  11. This medley sounds so delicious and healthy !! Nice marathon with you Varda !

  12. This dish is so simple and delicious! Love the vibrant color of the dish :) It was an awesome journey with you for the past month and looking forward to many more :)

  13. Enjoyed running this marathon with you Varada. I really enjoyed your write ups of your memories associated with the dishes and those lovely drawings and paintings that you shared with us.
    And this curry is a really a nice one and a healthy way to end this mega BM :)

  14. wow thats an fabulous shaak to end up the marathon loved the write ups .. the shaak looks super colorful and very tempting !!

  15. I enjoyed all your posts during the marathon; the art work, pictures and memories of your childhood. Spinach potato pumpkin curry looks good. Like the simplicity of it. I have a pack of unused paanch phoron. Now I have some recipes to try with it.

  16. Simple and yummy dish. It was a great pleasure running the marathon with you and leanrning new recipes.

  17. Simple & humble subzi!! Makes s good combo with rice/roti!!


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