David Ball’s Pumpkin charchari, with peelings, scraps and stalks

I love this flavoursome, spicy Bengali recipe. It’s incredibly versatile and can be made with pretty much any veggies that you have on hand. There is a little bit of faff and forward planning, but don’t be put off as the result is well worth the effort. I’ve cooked the peelings, scraps and stalks into this dish as they add a great texture, colour, and nothing goes to waste.

The recipe requires Panch Phoran which is an Indian 5 spice mix. The recipe below makes more than you need so store the remainder in an air tight container in the pantry, as It’s a useful spice mix to have floating around, and great in soups, dahls, and marinades.

For the Panch Phoran

15g cumin seeds

15g fennel seeds

1 tablespoon nigella seeds

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

For the Charchari

300g roughly 2 medium potatoes

300g pumpkin

300g cauliflower

1 cup veggie stock

Sea Salt


For the Masala

1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

5-6 dried Kashmiri chillies (we like our chillies, so maybe leave a few out if you don’t want it to be so hot)

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

2 brown onions chopped

4 cloves garlic

1 small piece ginger, peeled

Spices for tempering

a healthy splash of mustard oil

1 table spoon Paanch Phoren

2 fresh bay leaves

3 more dried Kashmiri chillies

Firstly, prepare your Panch Phoran by grinding all the spices into a fine powder. Sieve the mixture, discarding any large bits left over.

Next, make your Masala, popping all of the ingredients into the blender to make a paste.

Wash and peel your potatoes, and cut into 2cm-ish chunks, keeping the peelings to one side. Next remove the skin from the pumpkin with a sharp knife and add to the peelings, then cut the pumpkin into similar sized chunks.  Cut the cauliflower into florets, and add the stalks and tender outer leaves to your peelings and skins. Wash the peelings & skins really well, making sure there are no bugs or dirt, and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed pot to medium and add the mustard oil and the tempering spices. Fry for 1 minute or until the chillies start to darken. Mustard oil becomes very strong and fragrant when heated so take care and make sure your kitchen is well ventilated.

Add the masala paste to the pan and cook out for another 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and cauliflower to the pot and fry for a couple more minutes or until they start to colour. Throw in the pumpkin with the washed peelings, trimmings and stalks, and season.  Give the pot a really good stir to let the veggies get to know the spices, add your veggie stock then cover and turn the heat down to low.

It should take a further 15 minutes or so to cook, then test with a fork to make sure the vegetables are yielding but not completely surrendering.

I love to serve this with Pilau rice, yogurt and roti, and it’s even more flavoursome the next day as left overs. Enjoy!