Shish palong er chorchori (Spinach shoots mishmash)

7:24 AM

Kolkata, the city of joy is a mystery to many but I have a love hate relationship with this city. As a child I was awestruck with this city's splendour and glamour. Everytime we would visit from our small sleepy university town, the grandeour of the city with it's neon lights and big roads would mesmerise me. I will look at the building with big eyes from our car window and would think for hours about the kind of people who get to live there.

then adulthood happened and I moved cities to realise how dirty, clumsy, chaotic this city is. In Delhi I found solace in its queer quiteness of some areas and throbbing pulse at others. Later I was happy to settle in the modern and urbane Bangalore and when again I had to move back to Kolkata I could not wait to flee...

Now almost 6 years in the city and finally I can see it's hidden beauty, the very heart that beats in all its chaos and noise. It's not about the old houses, it's pompous history or the unique heritage of art and craft...Kolkata is special for its simplicity...the way it invites and absorbs every stranger...the way it is eager to make you a part of its own unique culture...yet the way it lets you be who you are...

Kolkata is pure magic.

and this is where I belong...

Today's recipe is uniquely Bengali too. Am not sure if any other part of India cooks Shish palong or the tender shoots of matured spinach plants. These are highly seasonal and comes to the market around this time of the year when winter starts to bid adieu. These spinach plants are taller with chewy stalks, tender buds yet very very thick roots. I was amazed to see few of the roots which were more than 4" in radius. But after peeling the outer skin even the roots are edible and add quite a bite to the dish. This is generally paired with sundried lentils or bori and other winter veggies like radish, new potatoes, brinjal, broad beans and carrots.
Here I have cooked it with lentils but sometimes I also cook it with fish oils and gills. Find that recipe in the NOTES section.

Shish Palong er Charchari
(Serves 4)

Shish Palong: 1 bunch 
Radish: 1/2 of a medium one (when cut in batons 12-16 pieces)
Carrots: 1/2 of a medium one (when cut in batons 12-16 pieces)
Potato: medium one or 6-8 pieces of small new potatoes
Brinjal: 1 small (Japanese variety or equivalent quantity)
Broad beans: 4-6 pieces
Onion: 1 medium
Green chillies: 3-4
Panchforon: 1 tsp
Bori: handful (RECIPE)
Poppyseeds paste: 11/2 tbsp (HOW TO HERE)
Mustard paste: 2 tbsp (HOW TO HERE)
Oil: 1 tbsp+1tbsp (USe mustard oil or a mix of mustard oil and white oil)
Mustard oil : 1/2 tso for drizzling on top

Separate the tender shoots and leaves from the plant. Cut the stalks in 1" pieces. If its very thick then peel the outer skin and slit the stalks for better absorption of salt and spices. Keep aside.
Chop the leaves and shoots i 1" pieces and keep separately.
Peel and cut the carrot, radish, potato in thick batons.
Cut the brinjals in big cubes.
Cut the ends from the broad beans and then cut in 1" pieces.
Slice the onion and keep aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil and lightly fry the bori till they are golden. take out.
Add the rest of the oil to this and when its hot add the panchforon and slit chillies. fry till they turn golden then add the onion and fry till again they start to turn brown on the edges. Now add the stalks of the spinach with some salt and turmeric. Mix and cover. Let it cook on medium for 56-8 minutes or till it turns soft.
Now add all the other veggies and mix. Add more salt and turmeric as per taste. Mix and cover. Let it cook for another 10-12 minutes. Stir in between.
When the Juice is almost absorbed add the poppy seeds and mustard paste and mix. Cook on low till the raw smell from the spices are gone. Cook for 3-4 minutes by stirring. now add 1/4 cup water and mix. Add the fried boris (I crush them lightly before adding). Mix and drizzle some mustard oil if you wish. 

Let the water dry out and then dish out with steamed rice.

I like to sprinkle it with some bhaja mashla.

A Homemaker's Notes:
To use fish oil and gills first clean and wash them. Follow the tempering method and after you add the onion place the fish oil and gills in the pan. Sprinkle some turmeric and salt and let it cook. The fish oil will turn black after some time then proceed by adding the stalks and follow the rest of the recipe.

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