Patol Charchari (Mishmash of veggies with Pointed gourd)10:50 AM
No other part of India has such big a love affair with patol/parwal/ pointed gourd as Bengalis do. So much so that when away from home, they can walk a mile, early in the morning in search of this vegetable. Yes I did that every Saturday morning. Woke up at 5.30 to drag myself to the Madiwala market in Bangalore to happily pick my share from a big bucketful of water. No, not the freshest ones, but who cares when you at least is getting it.
Summer for Bengalis means the big arrival of Mangoes and Patol. If you ask me Patol is the saving grace of spending summer in Bengal. The heat and humidity some days soar so high that it becomes almost impossible to have an appetite and on those days this light watery vegetable saves us. A runny ginger-cumin laced Alu patoler jhol will boost your energy and you will feel alive after having your afternoon siesta following that. And on not so hot days you can do a not so light curry like Chal patol, patoler dolma or shahi patol.
Like any other vegetable there are a few pointers which you should follow while buying patol. If you are unlike my Dadubhai then you might not know that a Patoler Dolma would need tender long tight ones for it to hold the stuffing well, or you need tender, small patols to cook this Patoler korma. But you should know that you need to press a patol hard to see if it's full of matured seeds, which means it's past its best time.
What if you mistakenly bring the ripe ones home? Should you discard them: Well No. No self respecting Bengali housewife will let you throw anything edible from her kitchen basket. She always has a recipe from her grand mother to make a taste dish out of it. Just like this patol charchari cooked with not so tender not so good veggies. This also is the perfect time to cook this dish as the patol season is almost getting over which means the market is flooded with the last of the crops, hard, almost ripe and with many many seeds inside them. Make this dish with whatever scrap veggies you have at the end of the day. I love it with a plate of hot steamed rice.
Ripe or matured Parwal: 7-8
Potato: 2 medium
Carrot: the top scrap after using the best part for other curries.
Brinjal: 1 small or 1/3 of a big one
You can also add Radish, ivy gourd (kundli) beans etc.
Onion: 1 medium
Green chilies: 2
Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp
Mustard paste: 11/2 tbsp(for authentic taste grind a whole dry red chili with it)
Oil: 2 tbsp
You can also add fish oil (scrap from big Carps of Rohu), tiny shrimps etc.
Scrape the patol, discard the ends and slice in 6-8 pieces lengthwise. Keep aside.
Clean and similarly cut the potatoes in thick long slices.
Prepare the carrot and brinjal similarly.
Thickly slice the onion too.
Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the nigella seeds and green chilies. Once they splutter and nice aroma arises from your pan add the onion. Saute for a minute and then add the fish oil or shrimps if you are using. Sprinkle salt and turmeric. Stir and cook till the fish oil is cooked (4-5 minutes) now add the Patol and carrots. Mix and stir and check the seasoning. Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
Next add the potatoes. Mix and again cover. When the veggies are little soft add in the brinjal pieces. Mix and cover.
After 3-4 minutes when the veggies are almsot cooked and the juice from veggies have dried up. Add the mustard paste. I generally mix it with 2 tbsp water and carefully pour the water from top. This discards the husk. If you grind it very smooth you can add it directly. Mix everything together and cook on medium for 4-5 minutes. The veggies should char a little for that authentic taste of charchari (it is derived from the word chor chor which comes from charring the veggies). Add 1/4 cup of water and mix everything, adjust the seasoning. Cover and let it simmer on medium. once it comes to a boil I prefer to add few drops of mustard oil.
Cook till the water evaporates and you get a coating mustardy gravy on the veggies.
Serve hot with steamed white rice.