Tuesday, 2 December 2014

BENARASI GHUGNI - A DISH WOVEN FROM THE THREADS OF THE WORLD'S OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY INHABITED CITY VARANASI



BENARASI GHUGNI RECIPE


 Standing tall on the banks of the river Ganga VARANASI the world's oldest known human inhabited city is completely a page out of history. Archeological evidence suggests that settlement around Varanasi in the GANGA VALLEY began around 11th or 12 th century BC. This city has not only fascinated one and all but was greatly revered by World Scholars as a seat of rich cultural, religious and artistic learning. The cultural richness of this city is woven in the BENARASI SILK SAREES which proudly behold the Indian heritage. Located in the Northern State of Uttar Pradesh in India this city is known for its numerous Ghats (the stairs which lead down to the river Ganga and serially line the banks of the river Ganga where from marriages to Pujas to aartis  are performed and numerous eateries can be found) and also for playing host for thousands of years to numerous people from different cultural background and religion who have flocked to Varanasi in search of inner peace, moksha(liberation from the cycle of death and birth) or to find the real meaning of life and existence. 


It is said that the food culture of Varanasi is as intriguing as the city itself. The first thing that one should do as soon as setting foot in Varanasi is to sample the very famous BENARASI PAAN (a parcel made out of betel leaf filled with sweet condiments like areca nut, rose petal preserve etc., used as mouth freshener or digestive after meals). There is a local saying there "ki jo BENARAS ka paan nahi khaya woh samjho Benaras nahi aaya" which means that if you have not eaten the Benarasi paan when you visit Varanasi then assume that you have not visited Varanasi. Even Bollywood movies have a great fascination for the Benarasi Paan which has formed the basis of many a popular Hindi Film songs. One cannot forget the crimson drippy patches around Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan's lips to show him chewing a paan in the song "Khaike paan Banaras Wala" which means after eating a paan from Varanasi from his super hit movie "Don". 



Predominantly Vegeterian and deleting the use of garlic and onion, the Street food of Varansi like the Samosa ( fried triangle pastry with savoury filling), vegetable cutlets, chaat (savoury snack) etc. Is to die for. Also not to miss whence in Varanasi is its delectable collection of sweets and Thandai ( a cooling drink made of milk infused with saffron, vetiver seeds, rose petals, fennel seeds and sprinkled with almond slivers, watermelon seeds etc.). Just as well known as its many winding alleys is its Lassi (yogurt based cold drink). You will not find so many varieties of Lassi as here and if you happen to pay a visit to the city try my favourite Bananna Chocolate Lassi.

From the many dishes that I have to tried in Varanasi I wanted to replicate the Benarasi Ghugni , in my kitchen as it is one of the most sought after snacks in Varanasi. Unlike the ghugni in Kolkata or Odisha which is made from dried yellow peas and served with fried fritters, or fried lentil spagetti on top, the Benarasi Ghugni is made from Black Chickpeas (Kala Chana) and is many a times served as main course dish which tastes delicious when eaten with Indian bread straight out of the clay oven or piping hot from the griddle. It's a very earthy dish, wholesome with the goodness of the high protein black chickpeas. The spices and aromatics and herbs give this dish its heightened flavours. For getting the exact taste from my Benarasi Ghugni this link acted as my guide CHAKH LE INDIA



SERVES - 4
CUISINE - INDIAN
TYPE - SNACK ALSO CAN BE SERVED AS MAIN COURSE DISH
TIME - 30-40 mins PREPARATION TIME + 20 mins COOKING TIME



INGREDIENTS : 

1) Black Chickpeas/ Kala Chana - 500 gms
2) Cumin Seeds - 1& 1/2 tsp
3) Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
4) Brown Cardamoms - 3
5) Green Cardamoms - 5-6
6) Cinnamon - 1 inch
7) Bay Leaves - 2
8) Red Onions - 2 roughly chopped
9) Ginger - 1 inch roughly chopped 
10) Garlic - 7-8 cloves roughly chopped 
11) Green Chillies - 4-5 roughly chopped ( Increase or decrease according to your taste buds)
12) Turmeric Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
13) Dry Red Chilli Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
14) Coriander Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
15) Salt to Taste
16) Fresh Coriander Leaves - 1 bunch
17) Clarified Butter/Gheer - 2 tbsp
18) Mustard Oil - 1/2 Cup
19) Lime - 3 (Juice)
20) Water - 1 Cup

LET'S GET COOKING IN SIMPLE STEPS :

1) Soak the Bkack Chickpeas overnight covered with water or at least for five to six hours. They will become bigger in size and softer to the touch. Pressure cook the soaked Black Chickpeas till they become really soft and smash with a push from the finger. Alternately you can cook the Black Chickpeas, covered in a deep thick bottom pan till it  is completely cooked and really soft.


2) In a heavy bottomed pan heat the Mustard Oil till it starts smoking. Into this add the dry spices Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Bay Leaves, Green Cardamoms, Brown Cardamoms, Cinnamon Stick. Lower the flame and fry the spices in the mustard oil lightly till they release their aroma. Take utmost care not to burn them.


3) Add in the roughly chopped Red Onions and sauté them with the spices till they turn golden brown.


4) Add in the roughly chopped Ginger, Garlic and Green Chillies, stir well to mix everything in the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. 


5) Add the Turmeric Powder, Red Chilli Powder, Coriander Powder and Salt to taste. 


6) Add a little Water to bring all the ingredients together. Cook for 2-3 minutes to allow this base to amalgamate nicely.


7) Add the cooked Black Chickpeas to this base Gravy. Add a Cup of Water and reduce the flame to let everything in the pan simmer for 15 minutes to assimilate all the flavours and aromas nicely.


8) Now sprinkle a handful of chopped Fresh Coriander leaves, drizzle in the Clarified a Butter, Mix and switch off the flame. Squeeze in the Lime Juice abd Mix again. 



Serve just as a snack by adding Sev(small crunchy chickpea flour noodles) or Pyaz ke pakore(deep fried onion fritters) on top. Also can be serve as a main dish with Indian breads or any breads.


INGREDIENTS : 

1) Black Chickpeas/ Kala Chana - 500 gms
2) Cumin Seeds - 1& 1/2 tsp
3) Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
4) Brown Cardamoms - 3
5) Green Cardamoms - 5-6
6) Cinnamon - 1 inch
7) Bay Leaves - 2
8) Red Onions - 2 roughly chopped
9) Ginger - 1 inch roughly chopped 
10) Garlic - 7-8 cloves roughly chopped 
11) Green Chillies - 4-5 roughly chopped ( Increase or decrease according to your taste buds)
12) Turmeric Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
13) Dry Red Chilli Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
14) Coriander Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
15) Salt to Taste
16) Fresh Coriander Leaves - 1 bunch
17) Clarified Butter/Gheer - 2 tbsp
18) Mustard Oil - 1/2 Cup
19) Lime - 3 (Juice)
20) Water - 1 Cup

LET'S GET COOKING IN SIMPLE STEPS :

1) Soak the Bkack Chickpeas overnight covered with water or at least for five to six hours. They will become bigger in size and softer to the touch. Pressure cook the soaked Black Chickpeas till they become really soft and smash with a push from the finger. Alternately you can cook the Black Chickpeas, covered in a deep thick bottom pan till it  is completely cooked and really soft.

2) In a heavy bottomed pan heat the Mustard Oil till it starts smoking. Into this add the dry spices Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Bay Leaves, Green Cardamoms, Brown Cardamoms, Cinnamon Stick. Lower the flame and fry the spices in the mustard oil lightly till they release their aroma. Take utmost care not to burn them.

3) Add in the roughly chopped Red Onions and sauté them with the spices till they turn golden brown.

4) Add in the roughly chopped Ginger, Garlic and Green Chillies, stir well to mix everything in the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. 

5) Add the Turmeric Powder, Red Chilli Powder, Coriander Powder and Salt to taste. 

6) Add a little Water to bring all the ingredients together. Cook for 2-3 minutes to allow this base to amalgamate nicely.

7) Add the cooked Black Chickpeas to this base Gravy. Add a Cup of Water and reduce the flame to let everything in the pan simmer for 15 minutes to assimilate all the flavours and aromas nicely.

8) Now sprinkle a handful of chopped Fresh Coriander leaves, drizzle in the Clarified a Butter, Mix and switch off the flame. Squeeze in the Lime Juice abd Mix again. 

Serve just as a snack by adding Sev(small crunchy chickpea flour noodles) or Pyaz ke pakore(deep fried onion fritters) on top. Also can be serve as a main dish with Indian breads or any breads.

NOTE :
* You can add diced tomatoes to this dish after Step 4 and before Step 5. Just ensure the tomatoes cook completely before going to Step 5
* If are fond of extra tanginess, add a dollop tamarind paste along with the powdered spices.

CHECK LIST : 

1) Black Chickpeas/ Kala Chana, 2) Cumin Seeds, 3) Mustard Seeds, 4) Brown Cardamoms, 
5) Green Cardamoms, 6) Cinnamon, 7) Bay Leaves, 8) Red Onions, 9) Ginger, 10) Garlic, 
11) Green Chillies, 12) Turmeric Powder, 13) Dry Red Chilli Powder, 14) Coriander Powder, 
15) Salt to Taste, 16) Fresh Coriander Leaves, 17) Clarified Butter/Ghee, 18) Mustard Oil, 
19) Lime, 20) Water