the taste space

Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 2, 2013

With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too!  While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.

This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.

I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s No Crouton Challenge for Indian spices and this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Bengali Quinoa Bowl with Spinach and Almonds (Badaam vaali Palak)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 28, 2012

There’s Chinese Five Spice, but have you heard of Bengali Five Spice? We already know Bengali cuisine likes to use an interesting mix of spices

Bengali Five Spice, or panch phoran, is a super simple spice mix, though: equal amounts of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Presto, finito.

As you can probably guess, it is a savoury mix of spices that create a complex depth of flavour. Here, it is paired with wilted sweet spinach, tender crisp red pepper along with some toasted almonds and garam masala.  While I adore leafy greens, I am not a big fan of cooked greens as a side. But when I mix them with a grain or bean, then I’ve hit my mojo. For this meal, I opted to create a quinoa bowl to sop up the flavours and mellow the vegetal cooked greens.

You might think this is just a side dish, with a lack of noticeable protein source. No bean, no tofu, no tempeh. Quinoa itself contains a reasonable amount of protein but the protein superstar here is the spinach. Two bunches of spinach wilt down to maybe a cup or so, but it packs a serious punch of protein (almost 10g per serving- more than the 6g from quinoa!) along with an abundance of  vitamins and nutrients (640% of your recommended vitamin A, 160% of your vitamin C, 35% of your calcium and 50% of your iron daily intake). All that in one serving!

Here’s to more spinach!

This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World for Bangladesh.

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Bengali Toasted Moong Dal with Spinach (Bhaja Moong Palak)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 12, 2012

I have talked about my inherited spice drawer before, but I did not tell you how I am positively smitten by it. It is a bit nonuniform as I haphazardly slotted in new spices in a hodge podge of old bottles, but the easy access to rows and rows of alphabetized spices is positively beguiling in its sheer simplicity. I used to have a rack of test-tubes filled with spices. As you can tell, though, my favourite spices cannot be contained within 12 test tubes. When I move, I need to devise a new spice system. The problem? I don’t know what my next kitchen will look like, or what the next one after that will look like… I need something practical, functional and most importantly: adaptable. The Kitchn has some great ideas but nothing that wows me. This one is really cute, but I want something that is both light-proof, air-tight and portable between kitchens. For now, I am thinking of finding similar white-top glass bottles (from Bulk Barn or Solutions) and storing them in a lightproof box.  Do you have a tried-and-true system?

Rob has suggested downsizing my cookbook collection before our move to the US. I suggested 20 cookbooks. He thought I could do better. I have over a year to figure things out or negotiate with him. hehehe.

Thank goodness he hasn’t capped my spices. I have over 50 spices, for sure. Cooking relies on fresh herbs and spices and it is much easier to move a box of spices instead of plants.

I am constantly amazed how a simple change in spices can lead to a completely different meal. In this case, I was curious about using 2 seemingly polar spices together in a savoury dal: cloves and fennel. Who knew that they would work so well together?

The Bengalis, that’s who!

This Toasted Moong Dal with Spinach is a Bengali curry adapted from 660 Curries. Not only is the strong fennel and cloves special to Bengali cuisine, but the lentils (moong dal) are toasted which firms them up. They do not disintegrate like red lentils. Rather, the toasting enhances their nuttiness allows them to keep their shape. This is known as a bhaja. Feel free to substitute your favourite green for the spinach.

Back to the spice issue at hand – what is your favourite way of storing your spices?


This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Ancutza, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to This Week’s Cravings (Green).

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