Leek Bharada Bhaji
Why is it that when we come across an ingredient that is very exotic, we want to use it to create a familiar dish at first.
Just like how babies put anything they are curious about into their mouths in an attempt to explore, discover and learn.
I suppose it is our way of starting from the “known to the unknown” – and now I am harking back to lesson no. 1 from my BEd class.
It can also be a clever camouflage to slip in a zany ingredient past xenophobes.
Very rarely have I bought something I have never tasted before, to make a dish that I have never made before… like with the celeriac that is incarcerating in the pantry, because I don’t want to make a mash or soup as recommended by a neighbour who grows them and haven’t figured out what sort of a bhaji or rassa I should make out of it.
The Chinese choy-sum and the bok-choy I discovered in the Chinese Market many years ago got made into Punjabi saag and a Marathi peeth perleli bhaji and moong dal bhaji. To this day I haven’t used them in any oriental dish. The very European Swiss Chard I was ignorant of until in my fourth decade, has become completely Indianised into my Marathi mudda bhaji and has even gone into a patra roll, but never into a quiche.
The same is the case with the European/Mediterranean leek- before I even ventured out to make soups and quiches, I had made this leek bharda bhaij which was an instant hit, establishing the hitherto suspect “mutated spring onion” as the new family favourite.
So in leek season now, it’s leek bharada, leek bhaji (pakora) leek varan (dal) leek pithla, leek thalipeeth…
…Seriously, leek unplugged.
To make the chana bharada ( chana dal rava) at home, simply blitz ¾ cup of chana dal in a spice grinder for a few seconds, sift it in a ‘not so fine sieve’. Blitz the larger bits again and sieve again – repeat till you get uniformly grainy semolina like dal crumbs. This sounds complicated, but takes only a few minutes!
Leek Bharada Bhaji
2 cups sliced leeks- both green and white parts (you will have to be very careful in cleaning leeks, as the leafy whorls have a lot of grit hidden in between – that’s one of the first lessons in commercial cookery!)
1 cup of ladu besan flour/chana bharada
2-3 tbsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder (or more)
A pinch of sugar/sweetener to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
In a heavy bottomed flat pan or kadhai, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds followed by the cumin seeds. When the seeds start spluttering add the sliced leeks and sauté for a minute or so. Add the turmeric, chilli powder and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the bharada bit by bit and mix it well into the sautéed leeks. Add salt and sugar/sweetener (optional) to taste. Reduce the heat and place a shallow container or deep dish half filled with water on top of the pan. This allows the bharada to cook without burning and without the need to add too much oil or any water.
Let it cook until the water in the shallow container starts to show some signs of heating. Remove the container carefully, taking care not to burn yourself!
Check the bharada bhaji- if it is letting out white steam, looks translucent and tastes cooked, it’s done!
Serve with hot soft rice and ghee, rasam and rice, dahi-butti or kadhi chawal. Goes well with rotis, phulkas and jowar rotis too!