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WorldVegan Saturday: B is for Bengal

Cauliflower and Potato Chechki: The power of the flower is hard for me to overcome. I love the soft texture and buttery flavor of cauliflower. Any dish that calls for it is an instant winner in my (cook)book. Luckily, while reading about Bengali Cuisine, I found this chechki with cauliflower and potatoes which made deciding on what to cook for "A night in Bangladesh" very easy since the combination of the two happen to comprise one of my favorite dishes of all time, Aloo Gobi.

If you're asking yourself "what is chechki?" don't feel alone, I wiki'd that pretty quick. Here's what I found: A chechki is a dish with vegetables cut into small pieces. This chechki uses the classic spice mixture panch phoron, generally equal parts black mustard seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, nigella, and cumin.

Do not attempt to substitute with Chinese 5-Spice and vice versa, you will be oh-so-disappointed.

I am a tad bashful to admit that the spice is new to me but I found it with ease at my local Indian market. The minute I laid eyes on it I had fallen in love with its physical beauty and its complex flavors were a pleasant surprise. I was in awe my entire feeding opportunity.

In this dish, every bite is different—one bite has the flavor of sweet mustard, another bite the surprise of minty fennel, still another bite the bitter fragrance of fenugreek. Those spicy surprises are even more intriguing popping out from within soft bits of cauliflower smooshed into warm potatoes.

If you think this just another aloo gobi recipe than you are thinking just like I was but guess what? I was wrong and so are you! Give this incredible dish a try and eat until you're sick (just like me).

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon panch phoron
Pinch or two of asafoteida (a.k.a. Hing)
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 small cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium tomato, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
Minced cilantro, to taste
  1. In a large pan, heat the oil until nearly smoking. Add the panch phoron, which should sputter, and add a pinch or two of asafoteida.
  2. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. Stir for a few minutes, then stir in the salt, sugar, turmeric, and tomato. Cover the pot and lower heat to medium-low. Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove the lid. If there’s any water in the pot, raise the heat to cook it off. Sprinkle with the grated ginger and cilantro to taste. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the dish rest for several minutes to develop aroma. Taste, adjust for seasonings, and serve with rice and parathas.

Parathas: Parathas (pan-fried Indian flatbread) are for when you want to spoil yourself! Crispy and flaky, they go well with most Indian dishes be it a gravied curry or a dry stir-fry.

2 cups flour
Salt to taste
1 cup vegetable oil (2 tbsps to knead the dough and the rest for frying the Parathas)
  1. Put 2 cups of flour (I used unbleached, white flour) in a bowl.
  2. Add water (I did not measure, but it was probably no more then 1/4 of a cup) slowly while stirring with a fork to form a fairly stiff, dry dough.
  3. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of oil and knead it into the dough. Knead until dough is smooth.
  4. At this point you can break the dough off into as many pieces as you want rounds of flatbread, I made four fairly large flatbreads. 
  5. Pour about 2 Tbsp of oil in frying pan and heat until shimmering. 
  6. Lay one flat bread into the pan and cook until it starts to puff up and the bottom begins to brown and blister. Turn and cook the same, remove to plate and continue with the rest.


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