Having your own kitchen garden has its own charm. Nothing can replace the joys of plucking your own vegetables and fruits from your backyard and cooking it fresh. It tastes so divine, that you just can’t seem to replace the flavor with any other vegetable bought from the market. It is for the first time, you actually get the true taste and flavour of the fruit and vegetable without the intrusion of any pesticides or fertilizers.
I had the good opportunity to live in a spacious bungalow for two years in Kerala with a sprawling backyard. I grew water melons that tasted sweeter than honey, ladies finger and pumpkin.
The pumpkin creeper that grew merrily in my backyard treated me to one of my favourite delicacies from Bengal – Pumpkin flower fritters. Every morning when I would sit down in the verandah with my cup of tea, my eyes would involuntarily search for the large bright yellow flowers which open up at dawn and close down once the sun is up in the sky. On some days, there would be more than two or three flowers, and that day I would pluck them, wash and clean them and fry them, dipped in batter and serve as an accompaniment with daal and rice.
Then one fine day, the pumpkin was ready to be plucked. When I cut it, it did not have the soothing orange-yellow colour, instead, it was a pale whitish-green combination. I think pumpkins grown in Kerala are slightly pale in colour than what is grown up North.
But this Pumpkin tasted sweeter and was more aromatic than what it appeared; my mother asked me to take the tender parts of the pumpkin creeper and add it to the dish. I did that and it further enhanced the dish. I am now sharing this simple, Bengali style pure vegetarian mixed vegetable with you.
I have made this vegetable only with pumpkin, potatoes and cauliflower. You can use brinjal and beans if you like. Usually in this particular Bengali dish, five types of vegetables are used and that’s why it is called ‘Paanch Meshali Torkari’ – meaning five vegetable mix.
- Pumpkin – 250gms cubed
- Potato – 2 nos. cubed
- Cauliflower – 250 gms, cut into small florets
- Brinjal – 250 gms cubed
- Beans – 250 gms, diced
- Black Onion Seeds/ Nigella Seeds (kalonji) – 1 tsp
- Mustard Oil – 2-3 tbsp
- Green chillies – 2-3 nos. slit
- Salt to taste
- Heat mustard oil in a wok and add the onion seeds and wait for it to splatter.
- First, add the cubed potatoes. Sauté till they turn slightly brown in colour.
- Now add the cauliflower and sauté well.
- Add the pumpkin last as it cooks very easily and melts.
- Finally, add the pumpkin creeper chopped and mix well.
- Cover and allow it cook, stirring occasionally.
- Finally, add salt and green chillies. Give it a good mix and cover.
- Serve hot with daal and rice.
We add the stems and leaves at the end, because of their delicate texture. Adding it at the end and covering it with the lid, keeps the leaves and stems slightly soft and crunchy and adds to the aromatic flavour. This mixed vegetable dish is not only simple to make, but is very easy on the stomach and can be had with chapattis or rice. This is an ideal meal to have especially if you’ve had a tiring day or want to give your stomach the rest of all the eating out.
You must be wondering what I did with the remaining part of the pumpkin. Well, with the remaining pumpkin, I cut it into thin slices and applied salt and turmeric powder. I deep-fried them and drained the excess oil on kitchen paper. This fried dish is ideal with daal or khichdi. This is called Kumro Bhaja or friend pumpkin, a staple fried item in most Bengali households.