08 May, 2014

Panch Mishali Torkari Recipe | Guest Post by Pia of The Peppercorns in My Pocket

Learn how to make Panch Mishali Torkari Recipe from Pia of The Peppercorns in My Pocket
Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."
~ C.S. Lewis
That’s pretty much sums up the friendship I share with this multi-talented girl! I am talking about my gorgeous friend Pia, author of a one of THE most beautiful blogs called the Peppercorns in My Pocket (don’t you just love the name?!). I was smitten with her wonderful photography the moment I chanced upon her blog, and her soul stirring narration that made me eagerly look forward to every new posts. Over the years I have become friends with few food bloggers and Pia is someone if we’re to meet in person, we’d really get on like a house on fire! As she rightly said one day while exchanging emails, we both have quite a lot of things in common; our love for books, food, family, prettying our home with pretty things and our love and yearning for the place we call home, India! Pia’s blog is a place where you can get lost in her words as she vividly paints the stories of her past and present. Hop over to her amazing space, I will assure you that you will be transported to the world of simple joy. If you enjoy some really good write-ups accompanied with recipes, then you can be sure to leave her space with big smile and happy thoughts. The stories of Chotu Ma, Pia’s chirpy, big dreamy eyed, beautiful little girl is an added bonus :) It is such a privilege to have you here, Pia and thank you for sharing such comfort food when we need it the most :) You can follow Pia on her Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram too.

Backwards and forwards

Can one walk backwards and forwards at the same time? Or do the two actions negate each other and make distance disappear, so that you stay in the same place like a tree - torso moving with the wind, toes digging into earth? I have a feeling, a good way of staying centred is to pretend you're riding a unicycle. One-pedal-forward-one-pedal-backward. That is what you need to do to achieve fine balance. To find your centre-of-gravity. Your rootedness. Rootedness has always had its root in movement.

My friend Sia, is moving from England, back to India, with her husband and little son. They're going back the way they came; walking in reverse. But towards family and old friends. Towards familiar roads and a well-known rhythm. Towards home. Backwards and forwards.

When Sia asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I had to Google 'guest posts'. I've always avoided them; I balk at the responsibility of writing for someone else's space, about someone else's life. But I couldn't say no to this. This is for a very special family; for three people who're headed to a country I too call home. So here I am groping in the dark. Stay with me.

Some of you, many of you, might know Sia well. She's the loving hand behind Monsoon Spice, a blog that is filled with everything its name suggests. A downpour of spices and smells and nostalgia. The clatter of an Indian kitchen. The smell of curry leaves and rain-soaked courtyards. Sia had carried these with her from India when she came to England many years ago, and now, as she, her husband and her lovely boy prepare to pack life into boxes and move back, I wonder if it's her box of red and yellow spices that give her the courage to make this move. If it's the nostalgia that tugs her back; urges her to give her son the taste of a life she grew up with. As she said to me "Time will tell if we've made the right decision".

For now, all any of us can hope for is to do is what feels right for our lives. For our hearts.

So, to three very courageous people - for it takes courage to give up jobs, sell off a home, say goodbyes and start from scratch - here's to being brave enough to change your course. Of going backwards and forwards at the same time, till you find your balance. Of riding life like a unicycle. So that, no matter where you are, you are rooted to the life that matters to you the most.

Something from back home

As Sia carefully packs up her kitchen, wraps her spice jars in bubble-wrap, I thought I'd cook her something that, to me, smells like home. This is a dish most Bengalis have grown up with - I certainly have. It's called Panch Mishali Torkari: a mix of five (panch) vegetables cooked with a sprinkle of five whole spices (panch phoron). And like all things I cook, this is my version, so puritans, stay calm. It's a very simple dish, usually cooked at the end of the week, when you need to use up the vegetable left in the kitchen. It also makes my home smell of Calcutta, and of my Ma.

Sia comes from from the South of India, whereas I come from the East. Our spices are quite different, and so are the smells and taste. So, here's a little piece of my home to take back to hers. Safe journey, Sia. A whole new, wonderful life awaits.

Panch Mishali Torkari

5 kinds of assorted vegetables cut into cubes/florets (I used ½ a cabbage, 1 small cauliflower, a small bunch of radish, 1 small butternut squash and 2 carrots)
2 potatoes (peeled and cut into pieces; yes, I know that makes it six vegetables, but starchy potatoes make the rest cling nicely to each other)
Panch phoron (you can buy it pre-mixed from most Asian stores, or mix it yourself by combining ½ tsp each of: cumin, black cumin, mustard seeds, aniseed, fenugreek seeds)
1-inch ginger, grated
2 dried red chillies
Vegetable or sunflower oil

  1. In a large wok, heat oil. Lower heat and add the panch phoron and the red chillies.
  2. When the phoron starts to smell all wonderful and the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop, add all the vegetables. Add salt. Give it a good stir.
  3. Put the lid on, and let it cook for 30-40 minutes, occasionally opening the lid to stir.
  4. When all the vegetables are well cooked, and mashing into each other a little, add the ginger.
  5. Stir, and let it cook for another 10 minutes (or till it begins to look like that, in the photo)


  1. A beautiful dish and combination of ingredients as well as flavors! Tasty.



  2. Pia, just dropped by to thank you for such warm and heart warming guest post. Your beautiful words kept me going as we bid goodbye to the country we grew to love. Now as I sit here in my parents' home, surrounded by so much love and happiness, I feel glad for taking this decision. May be it's the mango season that is makinge giddy with happiness... or may be it's my eagerness to welcome the monsoons... or it just may be the loved ones... whatever the reason, any reason to be happy has to be the good reason :) Hope you and your family are enjoying the spring!

  3. Just hearing this little update makes me happy, Sia. Maybe because I can almost see you, feeling at home, enjoying your parents' company (and those mangoes!) Wonderful! This was what it was all about, wasn't it? :)
    Much love to LD - hope he's settling in.
    I can't wait to see your first post from India!


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