Bhogichi Bhaji or Khengat is a delicious vegetable preparation, a specialty of Maharashtrian cuisine that is reserved for celebrations on day prior to Makar Sankranti. It’s made with seasonal produces- fruits and vegetables sourced directly from farms and seasoned with few basic ingredients!
This year, Pranay and I had decided to enjoy the winter season to its fullest. Last year this time around, we weren’t staying together as I was pursuing my Post Graduation in Culinary Arts at Manipal, Karnataka and stayed in the college hostel facility. So, this year, as winter began to set in, we sat down together, jotting down in our food-diary all the winter delicacies that we would savor in coming weeks and months. We penned down all different varieties of meals-one pot meals, veg preparations, desserts and many more that we couldn’t afford to miss. If you happen to be a Winter-phile, then you must head over to our Top 10 Winter recipes.
January is typically when Winter begins to gradually wane in Pune and people gear up for the first festival of the year- Makar Sankranti-which celebrates the arrival of new harvest season. The coming Sunday this year, we will celebrate the festivities of Makar Sankranti. Though the festivities are a pan Indian phenomenon, its known by different names in different states. In Maharashtra, its identified as Makar Sankranti, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Khichri in Uttar Pradesh, Lohri in Punjab and Pongal in Tamilnadu. Though the names may differ but the underlying feeling and the mood remains same-of joy and jubilation.
The festivities surrounding Makar Sankranti are too wide and different to be constrained in a paragraph, and hence I would resist the temptation of writing about it any further here in this post. I am aware that this festival warrants a blog post on its own, something that I intend to do soon enough.
Today let me share my experience of cooking one of the Maharashtra’s traditional recipe- a recipe that has not yet transcended the boundaries of home kitchen and become a celebrated dish of restaurant’s menu. It’s still one of those hereditary recipes that gets passed down from generations to generation. Without much further ado, let me introduce the central character- Bhogichi Bhaji or Khengat.
Bhogichi Bhaji or Khengat is a delicious vegetable preparation, a specialty of Maharashtrian cuisine that is reserved for celebrations on day prior to Sankranti. It’s made with seasonal produces- fruits and vegetables sourced directly from farms and seasoned with few basic ingredients
This Bhaji (veg preparation) differs in different parts of Maharashtra. Until recently I was unaware of the other preparations and my knowledge was limited to only its Konkani version. However, I stumbled across Bhogichi Bhaji’s other preparations during my job tenure at J.W. Marriot, Pune. Let me narrate that incident.
During my tenure at J.W. Marriott, Pune, I was deputed at “Shakahari – A Royal Indian Cuisine “. It’s a specialty veg kitchen at Marriott, Pune that serves to its guests the flavors of Rajasthani Cuisine along with a regional cuisine from different Indian states.
While working in this kitchen, I had a humbling opportunity to learn and cook thalis (spreads) from Gujarati cuisine. It was a well curated menu serving Gujarati delicacies along with the usual Rajasthani dishes. There were some popular recipes of Gujarat on the menu like Undhiyu, Gujarati Kadhi, Thepla and many more. However, the dish that fascinated me to no ends was Undhiyu.
One of the underlying reason for this fascination was that I was designated to collect fresh green veggies and transport it to kitchen. Though it was not the season for some vegetables like Surti Papdi, hotel management were successful in procuring it from the vendors. It was an absolute treat to my eyes, those Brinjals, Elephant foot yams , Surti papdi, Val Papdi, Baby Potatoes, Field beans, long beans and such other fresh produces. The ‘elated-me’ would pull and push that trolley full of green beauties from ground floor commissary to kitchen on second floor.
Not every job is the product of man’s passion and not every passion gives you the means to earn for your bread!
As it happens in every profession, there are very few people who are passionate about what they do. I was fortunate to meet some of the most passionate individuals during this tenure. These were individuals who had vision for their life, dreaming to soar high but their feet rooted to the ground.
I find it easy to connect with people who love food and value their tradition. It becomes so much easy to strike a conversation with such individuals. One of my senior chef Somnath was similar kind of person. He was replete with stories from his childhood, reminiscing on his granny’s food tales and was blessed with amazing taste buds.
On one such occasion, while we as a kitchen team, were doing mise-en-place (Dictionary: (in a professional kitchen) the preparation of dishes and ingredients before the beginning of service.) for Undhiyu, he informed me that akin to this preparation of Undhiyu , they prepare “Khengat” at his ancestral home back in Satara! Seeing my confused facial expression, he exclaimed, that he was referring to ‘Bhogichi Bhaji’ and then I felt illuminated- it was a feeling of happiness and surprise. The sheer beauty of the fact that different Cuisines of our country despite being so different are so common at its soul, had me amazed and satisfied.
Thanks to Chef Somnath and people like him who savour and nurture tastes that invoke our traditions. Julia Child said “The people who love food are the best people!”, and I couldn’t agree more.
As I said earlier in this post, there exists many variations in this preparations which results into every region claiming to having their own version of Bhogichi Bhaji (Khengat). In Konkan we use various beans & fruits, vegetables, but in non-Konkani regions of Maharashtra, a leafy vegetable called as ‘Chakvat’ – Chenopodiaceous (goosefoot family) is a must ingredient in Khengat. In some regions use of Hirwe watan (Green masala paste) is preferred whereas others tend to use kanda- suke khobre- lasun vatan (roasted onion- garlic- dry coconut paste) or just plain coarse paste of green chili & garlic is used season this dish. To be honest, friends it really does not matter, which masala paste is added to the dish, what elevates this dish, is the freshness of the seasonal produces that is used in this preparation.
Last week, I cooked this delicacy in dinner and it turned out really mouth-watering! I clicked the pic of my efforts and sent it to Vithatai (my domestic help, who also happens to be my SME for Marathwada cuisine) to seek her approval and she gave thumbs up!
It was a memorable experience, and my hard work paid off when my MIL praised this Bhogichi Bhaji preparation, while she licked her fingers clean. Truly, happiness is homemade!
Here is the recipe for you to relish Bhogichi Bhaji or Gavran Khengat with Til Bajarichi Bhakri ( pearl millet bread with sesame seeds ) this Bhogi festival !
- Vegetables as per availability:
- 1 bunch of Chakvat or Bathua leaves
- 1 small brinjal ( specially with thorns )
- 1 red carrot
- 5-6 valpapadi ( dolicho beans ) / ghevda ( scarlet runner) / surti papadi
- ¼ cup green gram/chana
- ½ cup peanuts ( soaked in hot water for 15 min )
- ¼ cup sour Ber ( Jujube )
- ¼ cup fresh green peas
- ¼ cup Tender Jowar ( Hurda )
- ¼ cup green pigeon pea
- 5-6 baby potatoes
- ¼ cup lima beans ( Pavta )
- For Masala:
- Green chillies 5-6
- Garlic ( 1 whole ) ( 15-16 )
- For Tempering:
- 1 tsp Mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp asafoetida
- A pinch of turmeric
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- Clean all the vegetables : For Bathua – take leaves and tender stalks. For Brinjal , carrot and Potatoes cut into medium sized dices. Put skin of potatoes intact.
- Wash all the veggies and put them in strainer to remove excess water.
- Chop the bathua roughly.
- Make a coarse paste of green chillies and garlic in morter and pastle.
- Heat oil. Temper with mustard seeds followed by cumin seeds, asafoetida , and sesame seeds.
- Fry sesame seeds till it gets evenly brown.
- Add turmeric powder. Saute till the raw flavour goes off.
- Add green chillies and garlic paste. Saute till the raw flavour goes off.
- Now add all the vegetables together.
- Cook on slow flame. Add water in between to adjust the thin consistency.
- Mash with the ladle in between to make it thick. Don’t mash chunks of vegetables as it should be seen in gravy. Only mash leafy vegetable.
- In 15 min, all vegetables get cooked. Adjust the salt. And serve with roti,phulka or Bajra bhakari. Tastes best when eaten with steamed rice.