Punjabi vegan recipe for winter vegetables in India, Panchratan methi gajar gobhi aloo matar
My grandmother made this stir fry on a wood fire in a chulha for a winter lunch. The colours fascinated me as a child and I learnt the recipe just by watching her make this sabji once. In an iron kadhai or wok, she heated some yellow mustard oil, which has a strong aroma all its own. She added some cumin and fenugreek seeds, asafetida and turmeric and a whole green chilly; another set of new aromas, filled the air!
In the flood of aromas and colours, she added tiny diced potatoes and stirred them till they were fragrant and a beautiful light brown.
She added tiny diced cauliflower florets and carrot, fenugreek leaves chopped fine, and a handful of freshly shelled green peas.
She reduced the wood in the chulha to lower the heat. She stirred the vegetables occasionally to cook them well, and added salt in the end. After this she made butter laccha parathas on the chulha:) to serve hot with this methi gajar panchratan sabji.
It was always a special day when she cooked. Every person in the family lined up to get her parathas straight from the fire! And many a times, friends came over or I was sent to neighbours with a tiffin tied up with a napkin, nestled in a cane basket that she got from one of her trips to Haridwar. My grandmother was a municipal corporator in the 1960s and had a career to balance with home life. Cooking was a great way to give quality time to family and friends for her. She could cook in large quantities! I went with her with large degs of tehri, a rice pulao kind of dish to serve to people who had to leave their homes by the Gomti riverside due to a flood. She was fondly called ‘Mummy ji’ and had infinite sons, daughters and daughter in laws! Privileged to be her eldest grandchild, I got to go to many places with her, be it to celebrate raksha bandhan with jail inmates with her friends, singing saavan songs for them, or distributing home-cooked food to the needy, or serving visiting saints who stayed in our sprawling home for a month to narrate Ramayan or Bhagwat texts. I learnt a lot from my grandmother, not because she lectured me, but because of the love and attention she put into every little thing she did:)
She let me be myself and gave me lots of opportunities to be around her and get new experiences, be it sitting on stage in a political meeting with the then Prime Minister Morar ji Desai addressing the people or a rickshaw ride to Aminabad to get the perfect gota for my lehanga for a wedding in the neighbourhood.
Her recipe for life was love, celebration and being useful.
This methi gajar panchratan recipe that i remember is just one of her gifts :)
For a recap of the recipe itself, please read on…
Mustard oil: 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds: a quarter teaspoon
Fenugreek seeds: a quarter teaspoon
Asafetida: a tiny pinch
Turmeric powder: a quarter teaspoon
Green chilly: One whole
Diced potatoes: a quarter cup
Diced cauliflower florets: a quarter cup
Diced carrots: a quarter cup
Freshly shelled green peas: a quarter cup
Finely chopped fenugreek/methi leaves 1 cup
Salt: to taste
Khatai/amchoor powder/unripe mango powder: a pinch
In a kadahi or wok, heat mustard oil on a medium flame and add cumin, fenugreek seeds, green chilly, asafetida, turmeric, potatoes and stir fry till potatoes turn a light brown evenly.
Next, add all the other vegetables and cook covered or open on a very low flame. Stir occasionally, till all vegetables are tender and start browning a bit, if you like them to be a bit crispy. Making them crispy means overcooking, but do as you please!