Squash Potato Poppy Seed Curry from Bengal (Squash Alu Posto)
Posted by fourclankitchen on June 18, 2010
Bengali cuisine is among the most delectable and intricate of the great cuisines of India. I grew up eating this stuff, but never got around to craving it. In my recent trips to Kolkata, I eat this stuff and wonder why the heck I have not figured out how to make this awesome food. This curry is typically made with ridged gourd (jhinga/jhinge), which is not sold in most grocery stores in the US. Since a trek to the Indian store is usually a chore, I make this with the more readily available summer squash or zucchini.
In addition to the usual Indian spices, Bengali curries are often tempered with panch phoran, a five seed mix where the flavors of Nigella/onion seed/Kalonji/kalonchoe dominate. Another flavor that is stereotypic of Bengali cuisine is mustard oil, which has a pungent, wasabi-like aroma and has been recently re-installed in the pantheon of good fats. The gravy is thickened with crushed poppy seeds, which give the curry a nutty flavor. Finally, it is enriched with yoghurt.
2 medium sized potatoes, cooked for 5 min. in the microwave, cut into cubes
4 medium sized squashes, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces
1medium sized onion, coarsely chopped
3 ½ tbs. vegetable oil, divided
½ tbs. mustard oil.
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 “ ginger, coarsely chopped
1-2 thai bird peppers (optional)
2.5 tbs. poppy seeds, ground to a fine paste in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle if you have it.
1 tsp panchphoron
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp sugar
pinch of asafetida/hing
2 tbs. yoghurt (whole fat, please)
2 cups water
Salt to taste
Squeeze of lime juice (optional)
Cilantro for garnish
Heat 2 tbs. of vegetable oil to a thin-walled cast iron wok, or any large pot. When hot, add the potatoes and squash. Add salt to taste and stir-fry till the vegetable are cooked through and start to caramelize a bit, about 5-10 min (depending on how finely you have chopped the squash and potatoes and what kind of pot you are using). In a food processor, finely puree onions, garlic, ginger and bird peppers (if using). In a coffee grinder, finely grind the poppy seeds. Then add to the food processor and pulse to mix with the onion-puree.
Heat the remaining oil, and add the pancphoran, hing, bay leaves and stir till fragrant: a min or so. Then add the onion puree and stir fry-until the mixture has browned and releases some the oil, about 5-7 min. Then add the coriander, turmeric and paprika. Stir fry for a few min. then add the yoghurt, a little at a time and fully incorporate it into the onion paste. Now add the squash and potatoes and fully coat in the paste. Add salt. Then add the water and allow to come to a full boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 min. Add the garam masala, mustard oil and sugar. Then add a squeeze of lime juice and cilantro, if using. Taste and adjust the salt. Let cool for a few minutes so that the gravy thickens (I took the picture before it thickened). Serve with rice.