Aloo Zucchini Posto ~ Bengali Recipe of Potatoes & Zucchini in Poppy Seed Paste

The fifth day of the #NationalVegetarianWeek and I am surprised with myself that I am still going strong with this challenge of sharing one Bengali vegetarian dish a day for this whole week. Today I have for you an all time favourite Bengali dish called posto.

Posto is a paste made with white poppy seeds. I know what you are thinking poppy seeds = opium and all kinds of oriental opulence. But I assure you that these seeds are pretty ineffectual on their own, at the most after a meal of rice and posto you will feel super drowsy. People living in the western part of Bengal are inordinately fond of this paste. We eat it in various ways starting from posto bata which is nothing but just the paste with a bit of chopped onions, green chillies, salt and a glug of mustard oil to posto or bora making fritters with the paste to cooking a whole range of veggies and even seafood & fresh water fishes using this humble paste. Remember I said inordinate*. Birbhum and Bankura are some of the districts of Bengal where people can't imagine sitting down to lunch without some form of posto on the menu. Since both my parents hail from Birbhum I guess posto kind of runs deep in my blood. I can happily survive on posto bhaat/rice like forever. 

*Not satisfied with just eating it, people often name their kids posto. The famously embarrassing Bengali tradition of bestowing strange nicknames on kids. Not to be left out, my family also gave me about a hundred nicknames, but thankfully none of them that embarrassing.

But let me not deviate from posto. Like I mentioned there are various ways we cook with the poppy seed paste. Today I have for you potato and zucchini cooked in poppy seed paste. I know what you must be thinking, but zucchini is not an Indian veggie by any stretch, isn't it? Well you are right and I totally agree. The traditional combination is potato and ridge gourd. Of course to get hold of ridge gourd I have to go to my Indian grocery store which is a good 30 minutes drive from our home. Our frequency of consuming posto is way higher than our trips to the store, so I had to experiment. After trying the various local vegetables in poppy seed paste, husband and me, we arrived at the very profound realisation that zucchini when cooked resembles the ridge gourd the closest in taste and texture and the zucchini takes to poppy seed like duck to water. So this combination is cooked and consumed in our home in alarming frequency and in vast quantities.

Give this combination a try, you won't be disappointed.

The ingredients ~
1. 4 medium potatoes
2. 2 big zucchinis
3. 1 big or 2 medium onion
4. 4 to 5 green chillies
5. 3 heaped teaspoons of poppy seed
6. Half a teaspoon of paanch phoron (Bengali 5 spices)
7. 3 tablespoons of mustard oil
8. Salt to taste
9. 1 teaspoon of haldi/turmeric
10. 1 bay leaf

Ok now let's get cooking
1. Step one is to soak the poppy seeds in hot water (not boiling) with half a teaspoon of salt and a couple of green chillies for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure that all the seeds are properly submerged in water. The seeds will soak in the water and get soft enough to blitz. If needed top up the hot water after 10 minutes or so. You can leave the seeds to soak for 2 to 3 hours but they don't need that long a soaking time. Make a fine paste using your wet masala grinder and keep it aside
2. Peel and chop the potatoes in small cubes. Similarly chop the zucchini. I cook the zucchini with the skin on. Now chop the onion in small cubes
3. Heat 2 tablespoon of mustard oil in a pan till it reaches smoking point, reduce the heat, wait for a couple of minutes then add the paanch phoron and the bay leaf. Let them sizzle for a couple of minutes
4. Then add the chopped onions, fry till they are translucent
5. Next goes the potatoes pieces and the turmeric, continue frying till the potatoes turn slightly brown on the sides, will take about 5 to 6 minutes
6. Add the chopped zucchini pieces connote frying for 2 minutes
7. Then add the poppy seed paste and everything well and fry for a minute or so
8. Then add the salt and enough water to submerge the potatoes**, also the remaining green chillies
9. Cover and cook till the potatoes are cooked, shouldn't take longer than 7 to 8 minutes, check and stir in between 
10. Once the potatoes are all cooked, turn off the heat and add the remaining one table spoon of mustard oil on the posto and serve hot with steamed rice
**You can make this dry and serve with dal or keep it semi liquid or as we say in Bangla john jhol. I make both depending on whether I have the time and energy to make the dal. The dal served with this is kolai er dal which is the Bengali urad dal. You could serve this with mushurir dal or even mong dal. 
P.S. No pressures at all,  but when a Bengali serves posto with any other dal than kolai er dal I feel really disappointed like someone has personally let me down and kinda judge that fellow Bengali a little lot. In my book aloo posto can only be consumed with kolai er dal if you are serving any dal with this. 

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