Most of you probably know garam masala, but have you ever heard of panch phoron? During my recent web browsing I stumbled more and more often at this mysterious Bengali blend of spices. The day I decided to taste it, I realised I had all the necessary ingredients, so it took me five minutes to make my own panch phoron and get ready to cook. I prepared one Bengali recipe, several days later another, then another… and now I’m so hooked on this mixture of aromatic seeds, I started my own experiments, such as this pork roast. Apart from my usual powdered roasting rub (powdered garlic, turmeric and chilli), I added a generous amount of panch phoron, mixed everything with oil and basted the meat, hoping it would create a spicy crust on top. The roast did end up with a nice crunchy texture and a wonderful array of addictive flavours. It was perfect in wraps with my homemade chapatti.
Phanch phoron (“five spices”) is a Bengali mixture of five seeds: fennel, nigella (black onion/kalonji), black mustard, cumin and fenugreek. All the seeds are whole and used usually at the beginning of a cooking process, stir-fried in oil until they start to pop (it’s called “tempering”), before other ingredients are added. I have also seen tempered panch phoron used as a “topping” (added just before serving). Some web sources use an equal amount of each and some advise adding an equal amount of everything apart from fenugreek. I have opted for the latter because I know that fenugreek can easily overwhelm any dish and any other spice. Therefore this is what my very first panch phoron looked like:
-2 teaspoons fennel seeds
-2 teaspoons cumin seeds
-2 teaspoons nigella seeds
-2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
-1 teaspoon fenugreek
Apparently some Bengali cooks using radhuni seeds instead of mustard seeds, but the huge majority of Indian blogs and websites call for mustard seeds, so I didn’t bother checking this other version (but maybe one day… if I find radhuni…).
All the spices are easily available in every Indian/Pakistani grocery shop and of course online (I bet one can buy all the seeds on Amazon too). All of them are regularly used, ground or not, in Indian dishes, they keep their freshness for quite a long time (unless ground), so if you cook or intend to cook Indian, it’s a wise investment.
TIPS: This lean pork loin roast is treated rather like a cold meat, so you will probably find it too dry if eaten hot as a part fo a Western-style meal. I advise using a fatter cut (such as shoulder) or tenderloin instead if you want a juicier result. Personally I don’t mind if pork roast is a bit dry (not too dry of course!), so I often bake loin anyway.
I have a very old oven, so you might want to adjust the roasting time according to yours. I start with high temperature and never reduce it because I like the results: I have noticed the crust forms quicker and the meat is less dry inside.
The pork should be at room temperature at the moment you put it into the oven, so make sure you take it out of the fridge early enough.
Preparation: about 50 minutes
Ingredients (serves four-five, if used in wraps or sandwiches):
600 g (bout 21 oz) pork roast (I have used the lean loin, but you can use any cut you like)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons chilli powder (or more, depending on the chilli powder and your heat resistance)
1 teaspoon powdered garlic (see the super easy home recipe here)
5-6 teaspoons of panch phoron (see the recipe above)
4 tablespoons oil (I have used coconut fat but any high heat resistant fat can be used)
Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).
Take out the pork out of the fridge, wash it, pat dry and season the with salt.
Make a mixture of oil and all the spices (turmeric, garlic, chilli powder and phaanch phoron).
Put the pork into a baking dish and rub with the spice and oil mixture (you can use a brush to do it).
Bake at 210°C for 40 minutes (make sure it’s no longer fridge-cold at the moment you put it into the oven).
Ten minutes before the end, take out the baking dish and baste the top of the roast with some of the spicy oil you will see at the bottom of the dish.
Put back to the oven for ten more minutes.
Serve sliced in wraps (it’s fabulous with Indian chapatti!) or in sandwiches.