Isn’t it nice to wake up, open the window and look out at the splendour of nature as dawn beaks into day…the sky full of vibrant colours…no two mornings are ever the same, are they?
Yes, the start to the week looked quite promising, though, it turned out to be a different story as the day progressed. But, then, the greyness of the day was saved by the colour around us…yes, the colour of autumn.
On the food front, during this time of the year, pumpkins and squashes abound. Back home in Assam, this means it’s time for labra…
yes, the mixed vegetable dish which occupies a special place of it’s own. Apart from accompanying meals at home, it also forms an important part of community feasts , especially during pujas (labra and khisiri is a classic combination during religious festivities). It basically consists of a medley of vegetables, which all come together to form this dish. The star attraction, the pumpkin, is missing from my version, as we have become fans of the butternut squash, so feel free t0 substitute it with pumpkin if you wish . Of course, like any other recipe, every household has it’s own labra combinations, but pumpkin, aubergine, potato and moolah/Daikon radish are usually the stars. Sometimes, plantains and roughly shredded cabbage are also used.
The following version is how I’ve seen my ma make it, and it is also the way I make it.
3 C chopped butternut squash/pumpkin
2 C chopped aubergine
1 c chopped moola/mooli(Daikon radish)
2 medium sized potatoes, chopped
a paste of 1 small onion (chopped), 4 cloves of garlic(chopped), 2 inches of ginger(chopped) and 1 whole red chilli
2 tblsp mustard oil
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
3/4 tsp garam masala powder
1 and 1/2 C water
for the tempering-
1 tsp paas puron
1 bay leaf
1 whole red chilli, halved
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the ingredients for tempering. When the seeds splutter, add the onion-ginger-garlic-chilli paste. Keep stirring till the moisture evaporates and the mixture is lumpy.
- Add the vegetables, moola, potatoes,butternut squash and aubergine, in that order, stirring well after each addition til everything is nicely coated with the spices.. Add the sugar and season with salt.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook till the vegetables are done 3/4ths of the way, stirring every now and then.
- Add the turmeric and cumin powders, stir well for about a minute and add the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook till done, stirring every now and then. The aubergine should have lost its shape, the squash and potatoes very soft ( no sharp edges) and the moola slightly firm.
- Add the garam masala powder.
- Increase the heat and stirring continuously, reduce the gravy, but do not let it dry out completely.
- Serve hot as a side dish with plain rice and dal.
- While chopping the vegetables, keep the sizes of those that cook faster, bigger in size to the others.
- Can add a little ghee to the dish after cooking, for extra oomph.
We had ours with plain rice and masoor dal (split red lentils). There was also something else, but that will find its way in another post
Am sending this over to dear Maninas as a part of ”Eating with the season”.
On another note, a few other things have come up, and, at times, I may not be able to respond to your emails as swiftly as I would like to. So please bear with me