Here’s a quick and easy way to get your veggies in these cold months using seasonal produced. An Indian style vegetable stir fry, or bhaji, using butternut squash, red cabbage and spinach. It is cooked in just a little bit of oil with sliced onions and a little bit of garlic and flavoured with the famous Bengali 5 Spice. Panch Phoron, or Bengali 5 Spice is a whole spice blend of fenugreek seed, black sesame seeds, whole cumin, mustard seed and fennel seed. Serve with rice for a perfect vegan meal for Meatless Monday, on enjoy a bowl on its own for a no carb meal.
This is a very easy dish to whip up in less than 30 minutes. The hardest part is probably peeling and cutting up the butternut squash, but even someone who is all thumbs and no fingers like me managed to do that in less than 5 minutes. Practice really does make perfect, guys. The best thing about this recipe is all the pretty contrasting colours. The flaming orange of the squash, the jewel tones of the cabbage and the emerald of the spinach. Get the kids to help you prep and marvel at the colour of the water as you wash the veggies. Or if you are an easily impressed pseudo-adult like me, you could just do that by yourself.
Cook time on the bhaji isn’t very long, just until the vegetables are soft and tender. Don’t let them turn to mush. The finer you cut the cabbage the quicker it will cook. The same goes for how small you dice the squash. Bengali 5 Spice gives a special fragrance to the dish however you can leave it out if you do not have it on hand. Alternatively, if you have a selection of some of the individual spices, feel free to add a very small pinch of each one. For foodies interested in trying new flavours, you can also buy Panch Phoron online from retailers here.
- 2-3 tbs oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp Panch Phuron (Bengali 5 spice blend)
- Half of a butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
- Quarter of a red cabbage, shredded finely
- 4-5 cups of spinach
- 2 whole green chillis (optional)
- Handful of chopped coriander (optional)
- Salt to season
- In a deep pan like a wok, add oil and allow to heat. Add in onion, bay leaf and 1/2 tsp salt to help onions soften. Once onions have softened and turned a light golden colour, add turmeric, garlic and panch phuron Stir and leave to cook for about 3-5 minutes for spices to cook off.
- Add in squash and stir to coat in spice. Cover and leave to steam in heat for about 5-10 minutes. Check every now and then and stir to stop the squash from catching. If it is catching to the bottom of the pan a lot, add a half cup of water at a time.
- After about 5-10 minutes, when the squash is partially cooked through, add in the red cabbage. Stir well and then again cover and leave to cook for a further 10-15 minutes, checking every now and then to stir.
- Once the cabbage and squash are soft and cooked through completely, add in the spinach and whole green chilli. Cover and leave the spinach cook for about 3 minutes, it will wilt in the steam very quickly.
- Once the spinach has cooked down, stir all the vegetables together well. Check salt and season to taste. Garnish the dish with chopped coriander and serve hot.