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.
Bengali Quinoa Bowl with Spinach and Almonds (Badaam vaali Palak)
Adapted from 1000 Indian Recipes
1/2 cup dry quinoa, well rinsed
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Bengali 5 spices (panch-phoran) (or use 1/2 tsp each of: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1-3 fresh green chili peppers, minced
1/8 tsp ground asafoetida
1 lb fresh spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped (2 bunches)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 tsp garam masala
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds for about 2 minutes, until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, heat vegetable stock. Add the dry quinoa and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Turn off heat, keep covered and allow to steam for 10 minutes.
3. Once the almonds have toasted, heat oil in a the same large skillet over medium heat. Add the panch phoran, ginger, garlic, green chili peppers and cook about 30 seconds.
4. Add asafoetida and spinach, stir and cook for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Hopefully there is some liquid left to become your dressing but if it is too soupy, uncover and cook on high heat to evaporate some of the juices. Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.
5. Using the same pan over medium-high heat, cook red pepper for about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender.
6. To assemble, place quinoa in the bottom of a bowl. Top with spinach mixture, next the red pepper, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and garam masala just prior to serving.