Bountiful Bhogi Bhaji (Lekurvali Bhaji)
“Lekurvali” is a Marathi adjective for a woman with children, an affectionate and generous matron who gives munificently.
Is it surprising then, that the term “lekurvali bhaji” conjures up an image of an Abundantia, the ancient Roman divine personification of plenty and prosperity!
And who else but Rubens could have painted this matriarch, sitting in the golden rays of the sun beaming benevolently down at the scene, surrounded by her cherubic little children and holding a cornucopia brimming over with a profusion of fruit and vegetables?
Rubens as many will know, was the 17th century artist known for painting women with fuller figures. In this day and age when so much is being said about making attempts to improve the body image of young girls, there should be a renaissance of artists and media persons such as Reubens, who can project the bodies and minds of women as real people and not statues or stick insects. Women who are not afraid to eat or cook even unusual vegetables with weird sounding names like sem ki phalli, suran, tuvar lilva and kantola… and women who will be able to inspire their children to eat vegetables and perhaps teach them to cook.
And perchance to concoct a dish as hearty, nourishing and satisfying as this lekurvali bhaji made on Bhogi, which is the first day of Sankranti – the harvest festival.
(Lekurvali) Bhogi Bhaji Lady bountiful
2 large potatoes, cut into large cubes (don’t bother peeling them if they are clean)
1 large eggplant, cut into chunks (make sure they all have at a skin side)
1 cups surti papdi , stringed and cut (I used the frozen variety)
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and cubed
½ cup toovar lilva (frozen)
½ cup peas (frozen)
¾ cup cup snap peas, stringed and cut
¾ cup carrot, cubed
½ cup oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp hing
½ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
For the masala
2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
¼ cup finely chopped methi leaves
2 tbsp roasted and crushed peanut
2 tbsp roasted and ground sesame seeds
1 tsp toasted poppy seeds
1 tbsp goda masala or Oondhiya masala
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp green chilli paste(or more)
1 tsp chilli powder (or more)
1 tbsp jaggery
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania)
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan/pot. Add the mustard seeds to crackle, the turmeric powder and hing. Layer all the vegetables in the order of their cooking time, with the potatoes going down first, then the carrots, eggplant, sweet potato, val papdi, snap peas and top the layers with the peas and tuvar seeds. Cover it with a tight lid (or cover with thali with some water in it- like a water bath) and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Then mix all the vegetables, and let them cook for a few minutes.
Add all the masala ingredients (pastes and powders), salt to taste and jaggery. You might want to add a little water at this stage. Cover the pan/pot again and let the bhaji cook until all the vegetables look done when tested individually. Add the lemon juice and garnish with chopped coriander.
Serve hot with sesame seed crusted bajra bhakri and some ghee.