Paanch phoron (five spices) is essentially a Bengali blend of 5 whole spices in equal quantities -
Fenugreek (methi), Nigella seed (kalonji), Mustard (rai), Fennel (saunf), Cumin (jeera)
A few years back, my mum was to go to Kolkatta for a wedding and, at that time, I didnt know what this panch phoron was all about, though I had read it in a few recipe books. Though most of the spices are used in my regular cooking, kalonji (nigella seeds) is something I had never used before. I dont think it features anywhere in South Indian cooking.
My mum asked her hosts there where she could buy 'panch phoron' and the lady there promptly gave her a box of this from her kitchen. I then picked up a bottle of mustard oil and started on a lot of Bengali cuisine and loved it.
This time I got a bit experimental and tried it with the usual lauki, chana dal combination.
The spices give a lovely aroma to the dish and this combination really worked for me.
What you need -
1/2 bottle gourd (lauki)
1/2 cup chana dal
1 tbsp panch phoron
1 bay leaf
a pinch of turmeric powder
2 green chillies
What you do with it -
Chop onion and green chilli lengthwise. Chop the tomato
Peel bottle gourd and chop into bite size pieces
Soak chana dal in water for about an hour
Heat oil in a pressure pan and add the bay leaf and panch phoron mix
Add onion, green chillies, turmeric powder and fry till onions are translucent
Add chana dal and the bottle gourd pieces
Add tomatoes and salt
Add about 1/2 to 1 cup water and cook in the pressure pan