Bengali Ratatouille Labra

Bengali Ratatouille Labra is like a vegetable mishmash. Lots of varieties of vegetables are cooked together with ginger and Bengali five spices (panch phoron) till they are soft and coated in their own juice. This is a very basic and simple dish but very rich in flavours. Mostly served on puja days with satvik khichuri and roasted papad. The basic method is to temper the oil with panch phoron and then start cooking the veggies, first the hard ones that take most time and the last that are soft and cook fast. You can use any oil but the traditional dish calls for the mustard oil as it really adds a good pungent and flavor to the food. In this recipe, I am listing out the veggies I have used. You can use a combination of any 5 or more veggies and vary the quantities as per your choice. If you are using a squash, no need to add sugar else add sugar.

photo of Bengali Ratatouille Labra
1 and 2/3 cup chopped Aubergine/Eggplant
3/4 cup chopped Cabbage
1/2 cup chopped Spinach
1/2 cup Green Peas
1/2 cup chopped Yellow/Green/Orange/Red bell peppers
1 cup chopped Ridge gourd
1 Potato peeled and chopped
1 Green chilli, slit vertically
Dash of hing or Asafoetida
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
4 Fenugreek or Methi seeds
1 Dry Red chilli
1 knob Ginger grated/chopped
1.5 tbsp Mustard oil
Salt as per taste
1/2 tsp White Sugar
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Kashmiri Mirch powder
1/4 tsp Cayenne powder ( Red Hot Chili powder)
Heat a non stick pan. Add mustard oil. When it is slightly hot, add hing, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, and methi.
When the seeds stop popping and cracking, add dry red chilli, chopped ginger and green chilli. Saute for 2-3 minutes.Add the chopped potatoes. Cook on a low heat with the lid covered for 10 minutes.
Add the cabbage, spinach and peas. Cook on a low heat for another 10 minutes with the lid covered.
Add the eggplant, bell peppers, ridge gourd. Then add salt, turmeric powder, kashmiri chilli powder and cayenne. Cover with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes on a low heat.
The mixed vegetables do not need any stock. They cook in their own juices. However, you can add a quarter of water if your vegetables are sticking to the pan. Stir and mix in between the cooking time.
When the vegetables are completely cooked, add a little sugar and take it off the heat. You can add 1 tsp ghee/ mustard oil at the end if you like.
Serve it hot with bengali khichuri or rice.