It’s an UP-specialty relished during winters
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Varanasi is regarded among the most ancient cities of the world, prominent as a sacred Hindu pilgrimage destination on the banks of the Ganges. The narrow lanes of the religious town are bustling with locals, tourists and street food vendors.

During our Utsav—Thalis of India trail with Chef Kunal Kapur, we noticed locals and tourists savouring a green-brown bhaji with fresh kachoris at these street food stalls. We were intrigued and quizzed Chef Anup Gupta, Executive Chef, The Gateway Hotel Ganges, Varanasi. “Banarasi Bhaji is a unique and nutritious combination of palak, potatoes, black gram, brinjal, and is a winter delicacy of Uttar Pradesh. It is local and it is seasonal,” said Chef Gupta. He continues, “You can trace the history of this bhaji to the temple and home kitchen gardens of the past. It’s said that hundreds of years ago, a wise gentleman mixed together these vegetables from his humble kitchen garden, added a dal to make it more filling and that’s how we got the Banarasi Bhaji. It gives energy and sustenance to power through the work day.”

Since this bhaji uses all fresh ingredients that are seasonal, with no onion or garlic, this preparation has found its place in Satvik temple cooking as well, and is popularly served for breakfast during weddings and festivities. “Paired with the local Banarasi Kachori that’s stuffed with moong dal, this bhaji suits the requirement of any meal, and can be served for lunch as well, besides being a beloved snack,” says Chef Gupta.

Pointing out its nutritional aspect, he adds, “The quintessential coupling of Benarasi Bhaji and Kachori meets the protein, carbs, fats and fibre requirement.” Putting two and two together, we made sense of the equation: The potato in the bhaji and the wheat flour of the kachori rakes in the carbs, the Bengal gram in the bhaji and the moong dal stuffed in the kachori are protein packed, spinach and brinjal are rich in iron and fibre, while the desi ghee is your dose of good fats.

Here’s a recipe by Chef Gupta so that you can recreate this Banarasi delicacy in the comfort of your own kitchen in any part of the country.

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Recipe
Serves 4

Ingredients
50ml cooking oil
100g Brinjal
50 g Coriander
100 g Spinach
3g Ginger, chopped
2 g Green Chilli, chopped
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Deghi Mirch Powder
200g Tomatoes, chopped
300g Potatoes, boiled and mashed
Salt to taste
1 tsp Panchforan
100g Black Gram (Kala Channa), boiled
50g Desi Ghee

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a kadhai. Add panchforan, chopped ginger and green chillies. Sauté till golden brown.
2. Make a paste of turmeric, deghi mirch and dhaniya powder separately. Once you are happy with the consistency, add this paste to the pan. Cook for some time.
3. Toss in the chopped tomatoes. Sauté properly till it is mashed and cooked.
4. Add the mashed potatoes and pour in some water. Sprinkle the chopped spinach, dices of brinjal and black gram. Cook well.
5. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the Benarasi Bhaji into a bowl. Garnish with desi ghee and fresh coriander leaves, chopped. Best savoured with Kachori.

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