Labra (Bengali Mixed Vegetables)

Labra or ‘bhoger labra’ (offered to the Gods), is a mixed vegetable dish from West Bengal made during puja ceremonies and special occasions. No onion or garlic is used in this recipe and it has the two most flavorful spice mixes in Bengali cuisine- panch phoron ( Bengali Five Spice) and Bhaja Masala (Dry Roasted Masala). The use of mustard oil and ghee at the end makes this dish absolutely lip smacking delicious. Food is a huge part of festivities all over the world, and especially so in Bengali households and during festivals. I grew up in a household where my Mum used to make labra pretty often and particularly during festivities like Kali Puja and Durga Puja. Traditionally red cabbage is not used in labra but I added it here not only for vibrancy but also to give the dish a crunchy texture to balance the smoothness of the other vegetables in the dish @sarchakra

COOK TIME:30 mins

PREP TIME:10 mins

YIELDS: 4-5

Ingredients

  • Red cabbage 2 cups, chopped small
  • Eggplant 1, chopped small
  • Taro 1, chopped
  • Butternut squash 2 cups, chopped
  • Spinach 2 cups
  • Salt
  • Turmeric 1 tbsp
  • Grated ginger 1 tbsp
  • Coconut powder 2 tbsp
  • Red chili powder 1 tbsp
  • Panch phoron: * 2 tsp
  • Asafetida a pinch
  • Red chili 2, broken
  • Mustard oil 3 tbsp
  • Ghee 1 tbsp

Bhaja Masala

  • Cumin seeds 1 tbsp
  • Fennel seeds 1 tsp
  • Coriander seeds 1 tsp
  • Whole red chili 1
  • Bay leaf 1, broken

Bhaja Masala Method

  • On a non stick pan toast cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaf and red chili on a slow flame till aromatic.
  • Let it cool down.
  • Grind. Keep aside.

Method for Labra

  • Heat oil. Add in panch phoron, whole red chilies and asafetida. Add all the vegetables except spinach.
  • Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes or so. Now add the spinach. Add salt and turmeric.
  • Put in coconut, red chili powder. Add grated ginger. Cook on a low medium heat covered. There is no need to add any water. Keep the gas on low.
  • When vegetables are done, sprinkle ghee and Bhaja masala powder. Mix. Serve with basmati rice.

Notes

Panch phoron is a mixture of five (‘paanch’) Bengali spices- mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek, fennel and nigella seeds.

Bhaja masala is integral to many Bengali dishes especially the vegetarian ones. This can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Tempering the spices
Adding the vegetables
Adding the spinach
Adding the coconut and rest of the spices
Let it cook in the steam
Labra is ready
Labra

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