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Indian Ratatouille with Five Spices (Panch Phoran Tarkari)

by Suneeta Vaswani

Serves 8

Panch phoran, the signature five-seed blend used in Bengali food, is magical. Versatile and easy to use, its distinctive flavor is perfect in both Indian and non-Indian dishes.

2    dried Indian red chiles, broken in half    2
2    bay leaves    2
1 tsp     panch phoran 5 mL
2 tbsp    oil  25 mL
1 lb eggplant, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces    500 g
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 11⁄2-inch    500 g (4 cm) pieces
8 oz butternut squash, cut into 2-inch (5 cm)   250 g pieces
2 to 3 tsp    chopped green chiles, preferably serranos  10 to 15 mL
1 tbsp    milk 15 mL
1 tsp     salt or to taste   5 mL
1⁄2 tsp   granulated sugar   2 mL
1 cup     frozen peas   250 mL


1.   In a small dish, combine red chiles, bay leaves and panch phoran.

2.   In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Stir spices into hot oil and sauté until seeds stop popping, 30 to 40 seconds. Immediately add eggplant, potatoes and squash and mix well.

3.   Add green chiles, milk, salt, sugar and 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) water. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add peas and simmer until water is absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot with an Indian bread.


Recipes reprinted with permission from Complete Book of Indian Cooking, by Suneeta Vaswani, Robert Rose Inc., 2007.

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