Jukti phool er shukto

10:05 PM


Jukti phool or Sneeze wort flower is a comparatively new ingredient in my kitchen. I first discovered it in my local vegetable market 3 years back. To be honest I was fascinated with how pretty these green flowers were but the vegetable vendor warned me about it's bitterness. Following his suggestion I cooked a simple stir fry of it with Potatoes and simple seasoning at that time and loved every morsel of it mixed with steamed rice. The flower though look delicate has quite a bite to it and holds their shpe well even after cooking.

Cut to today's time, just last week I found them again and the seller told me to make Shukto with it. Which is a classic example of using any bitter vegetable in a Bengali household. Shukto, the iconic bitter gourd curry is a perfect example of balance. It's salty, sweet, bitter, pungent and slightly spicy yet mellow at the same time. It is eaten as the first course in a proper Bengali sit down lunch.


Depending on the occasion and season bitter gourd is often substituted with other vegetables or leaves. Like when served to would be in laws Bitter gourd is substituted with Shiuli pata (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis leaves ) as it is traditionally considered that a new relationship should not start on a bitter note.   Often when in season even Gandal pata (Paederia foetida) or Polta pata (Pointed gourd or patol). are also used.

I looked up and Jukti phool is known in various names, the popular ones are Sneeze wort, green milkweed climber, green wax flower etc. the scientific name is Dregea volubilis . The plant is a climber and grows wild in tropical climate. In ayurveda there are many medicinal uses of this plant.

I cooked the shukto just the way my maa taught me but instead of bitter gourd used these flowers. Here's a quick recipe

Jukti Phool er Shukto
(serves 5-6)

Ingredients:
Potato: 1 small
Raw Papaya: 100 gms (just a few thin slices)
Broad bean. Hyacinth bean/ shim: 3-4
Brinjal: 1/2 of a purple one (1/2 cup sliced)
Plantain/kancha kola: 1
Drumsticks/ sojne danta: 3
Jukti phool: 50 gms or 1/2 cup
other veggies like carrots, Beans, yardlong beans etc
Bori/ sundried lentils: handful
Mustard paste: 1 tbsp
Milk: 1/3 cup
Mustard oil: 3 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tsp
Panchforon: 1/2 tsp
Bayleaf/ tejpata: 2
Ginger: 1/2" piece
Salt 
Sugar: 1 tsp

To dry roast and grind:
Panchforon: 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf: 1

Method:
First prepare the veggies. Shukto veggies are generally cooked in long pieces.
Wash, Peel and cut the potato, raw papaya, plantain in thin wedges.
Discard the end stems and cut Shim in 1" pieces.
Similarly prepare the carrot, yardlong beans and brinjals.
Cut the drumstick in 1.5" long pieces after removing the skin.
Cut the thick stem to which the jukti flowers are attached. 
Grind the ginger in a mortar and pestle. Keep aside.
Mix the mustard paste with 1.5 cups of water.

Heat the pan and on slow fire dry roast the panchforn and bay leaf till aromatic. Take off heat and grind once cools. Keep aside till needed.

Heat little oil and Fry the bitter flowers till they are wilted. take out and keep aside.
Heat 1 tsp oil and fry the brinjals till half cooked. Take out.

Now Heat 2 tbsp Mustard oil and first fry the papaya and potatoes with a pinch of salt. Fry on low till they are slightly cooked (4-5 minutes). Add the Drumsticks and fry some more. Now keep adding the veggies according to the time needed for their cooking. Like the hard vegetable goes first and the softer ones last. Or you can fry one veggie at a time and take them out.

Once your veggies are fried add water with mustard paste. Adjust salt and bring to a boil. Cover and let the veggies cook. after 4-5 minutes switch off the flame. Mix in the jukti flower and fried brinjal pieces. Keep aside.

In another pan heat 1 tbsp more oil add the panchforon and bay leaf. Once they are aromatic and starts to splutter add the ginger paste. Cook for a minute and add the cooked veggies with all the water. Bring it to a boil and then add the milk. Mix and adjust the seasoning with sugar and salt. 

Once you are happy with the consistency add the ghee and roasted spice powder and cover. Switch off the flame and let it rest for 5 minutes before you serve this with steamed rice as a first course.

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