‘Makarsankranti’ is the first Hindu festival of the year and is celebrated across India under different names. This bhogichi bhaji, a mixed vegetable curry, is traditionally cooked at the beginning of the festival and celebrates the seasonal winter produce of India.
For a farmer, Makarsankranti marks the beginning of the winter harvest season. At my ancestral farm, sustainable regenerative agricultural practices have been an integral part of farming for generations. In fact, they have always been firmly rooted in the indigenous farming community of this land. My grandparents followed practices like intercropping as well as crop-rotation to increase on-farm biodiversity, break-up pest cycles and balance out nutrient demands on the soil. These are just a few of the many regenerative farming practices they followed and the festival simply echoes that practice. Hence, by the time Makarsankranti arrives, crops in our farm such as jowar (sorghum), wheat, maize, sugarcane, a variety of beans and lentils, grown as part of the Rabi cycle are ready for harvesting. You can see, even our culture and festivals celebrate sustainability, seasonality, acknowledge diversity as well as inculcating harmony by encouraging to talk ‘sweet’ throughout the year -’Tilgul ghya goad bola’
This gluten-free vegan thali showcases my love for seasonality and sustainability in farming. I made the ‘Bhogi’ curry using some local seasonal vegetables as well as indigenous produce from India that’s quintessential to this festival. I enriched it with the customary sesame seeds, dry coconut and peanut. I hand-patted pearl millet flatbreads laden with sesame seeds. I made sweet peanut balls (laddoo) with three ingredients to echo the sweet-talk message of this festival.
Bhogichi bhajiCourse: MainCuisine: Maharashtrian, Indian
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp veg oil (I used sunflower oil)
a pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Kala masala
3/4 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
4 tbsp dry grated coconut
1 tbsp whole peanuts
5 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger
1 large onion (chopped)
2 medium-sized tomatoes (chopped)
1/4 cup Indian green grams (harbara)
1/4 cup chopped carrots
2 large potatoes (chopped)
2 large Indian thorny aubergines (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1/2 cup frozen petit pois or peas
2 cups water
Salt to taste
- Start by toasting the sesame seeds. Once cooled, grind them coarsely and set aside
- Grind the cumin, ginger, garlic, and dry grated coconut to make masala for the curry
- Make a tempering of whole mustard seeds, asafoetida in a veg oil in a heavy-bottomed pan
- Add curry leaves followed by chopped onions.
- Add the masala paste from step 2 and stir for a minute.
- Next add the legumes – green grams, peanuts, chopped tomatoes, and carrots. Stir and cook for 2 mins with a lid on
- Add turmeric powder, kala masala, and red chilli powder to your taste or as specified above and stir
- Add the remaining vegetables – chopped potatoes, aubergines, green pepper and cook with the lid on for another 3-5 mins
- Pour in the warm water. Towards the end add frozen peas, salt to taste, and jaggery (if you like).
- Cook for another couple of minutes with the lid on until the vegetables are almost cooked.
- Finally, stir in the sesame seed powder from step 1. Cook for a minute and you’re done.
- Remember to add vegetables in the correct order in the pan whilst cooking. The legumes likes green grams, peanuts and vegetables like carrot take longer to cook compared to potatoes, aubergines and green peppers. So add the legumes first.
- Don’t overcook the vegetables.