POSTO diye PALONG SHAK BHAJA : Fried Spinach with Garlic and Poppy seeds

Weekend afternoons in my maternal home, always meant a serving of hot Mushur Daal(stewed red lentils) and Palong Shak-er Bhaja. Sauteed Spinach was usually the first dish, with which we began the elaborate weekend lunches. Now that my brother and I were too fond of it, when were both very young, but it was a taste which grew on us. Till the point now, when I seriously crave for it on certain days. As a small kid,my brother used to be very excited, when he mixed in the sauteed spinach with his steamed rice, and the rice took on some green colour. Once Ma discovered this, it was much more easier for her to convince him to have his greens, than  me.Memories.

So recently while I was planning on a lunch menu for my Mashi and Mesho, I decided to bring about this old touch from home. Kosha Mangsho(Mutton Curry) and Chingri Bhape(Steamed Prawns in Mustard Sauce) had already been done to go with some steamed Basmati Rice. I was planning on some Mushur daal as well, so why not some Posto diye Palong Shak Bhaja. That would just about round off the Bong meal.We all love our share of Bhaja with Daal, don't we ! I had a bag of  cleaned baby Spinach, which was still quite crisp. I had been planning on turning it into a salad with some boiled eggs, grilled chicken, lemon vinaigrette. But the Spinach had its destiny to go the Bong way.So the Salad plan was shelved and Bhaja was in the party. 

I had seen my Mom make Palong Shak Bhaja in a few ways. Or lets say, she just changed what she added with the Bhaja. At times, it was fried Bori, at times it was some Begun(Eggplant) which was cooked with the Palong Shak, and at times, it was Posto(Poppy Seeds).I decided to opt for the final choice of toppings.The half of Ghoti blood in me, has always had a thing for Posto, in any form. The trick is to add raw poppy seeds to the sauteed spinach, in the final few minutes of cooking. It lends to the texture of the dish as a whole. The problem of cooking with Spinach is that, they reduce in volume, once they have wilted. So you mights tart off with a whole pan of Spinach, and by the time, you are midway, cooking, its become 1/10th of its original volume. As I was cooking for a few people, rather than the usual two of us, I was happy that I had a big bag of spinach at home. This particular dish, works only with raw Spinach, so give the blanched and frozen varitey a miss, when you are making this Bong varitey. No use playing with classics. So I chopped up the Baby Spinach and washed them well.Did not want any gunk or residue hitting the hot pan. The strong Shorsher Tel (Mustard Oil), picked up from the Bangladeshi store was just perfect for this appetizer. Mustard Oil lends a signture flavour and boldness to most Bong dishes, which can never be achieved with Canola Oil.Minced Garlic and dried Red Chilies added the bite to this Bhaja ! Mashi- Mesho loved the touch of Posto to the Shak Bhaja and I was beaming as I waltzed into the Chingri Machh Bhape. 


Baby Spinach: Chopped: 300gms (increase it accordingly)
Dried Red Chilies: 2-3
Minced Garlic: 1 tbsp
Shorsher Tel(Mustrad Oil): 3-4 tbsp
Salt: to taste
Poppy seeds: 4-5 tbsp
Panch phoron: A pinch

Wash the poppy seeds very well,and soak them in water for around an hour.

Drain away the water from the washed spinach

Add the oil to a pan and wait for it heat up a bit. Do not let it smoke. Add in the panch phoron in the hot oil. Break the dried red chilies in two and toss them into the pan.

Once the spices start crackling, add in the minced garlic. Fry it a bit, but do not let the garlic get burnt. Garlic has a tendency to get burnt very fast, and there is nothing worse than burnt garlic in any dish. 

Once you can smell the aroma of garlic from the pan, start adding in the spinach.season it with salt. Toss it around, and make sure all the spinach is coated well with the oil in the pan.

Cook for around 5-7 minutes till you see that the spinach has wilted totally. 

Do a taste test. If the spinach tastes cooked, then turn off the heat. Drain the poppy seeds, and add them, and mix well. The poppy seeds add a nice crunch to the dish and lend to the overall taste very well. Its all about a little bit of decadence in the first course itself.

Its perfect with some steamed Basmati rice and Mushur daal !! Its a very simple dish, with minimal prep work and minimal ingredients, but packs in a punch big time.

Bon Appetit !!


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