Bong Palak

Spinach comes in cans too, but by far the better spinach is the one that comes in frozen bricks. My personal feeling - sacrilegous, Im sure - is that this spinach seems to taste better than most grocery-fresh spinach that I buy. The problem - thawing. You can't microwave them without turning them half into jelly - the only reliable method of thawing them without cooking them in the process is to leave them out overnight or in warm water for hours. Once that's done, however, you have really nice spinach. My mother taught me the Bengali way to make palak aloo. It's different from the Punjabi school, which is essentially paneer in palak paneer replaced with aloo. The Bong style has no spices but whole dried red chillies fried, and you keep stirring the chopped (not pasted) spinach in oil (not ghee) on the flame till it's dry. That takes much longer than it sounds - spinach tends to keep releasing water - but if you've had the patience to stir through it all (yes, constant attention or it burns) then you get fabulously tasty crumbly spinach that wraps nicely around the aloo. The aloo should be cut really small - half or quarter inch cubes are nice - and boiled beforehand or gotten out of a can. Minimal salt is called for right at the end; apparently spinach has a way of making salt taste saltier, and if you add salt to the spinach early on it releases even more water and becomes mushy. Of course, dont use anything non-stick and deglaze to impress your mother. Another great thing to add to this are small cubes of deep-fried aubergine.

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