This recipe is gluten free and easy to digest.
The farmer’s meal got revolutionized when a lot of zhunka bhakar stalls appeared throughout Maharashtra. This rustic meal consists of zhunka, which is a vegetable made with onions and chickpea flour and bhakar / bhakri , an unleavened flat bread made with jowar (sorghum) / bajra (pearl millet) orrice flour. The basic farmer’s meal used jowar for bhakar. The meal is best served with lasun shengdana chutney ( garlic/peanut chutney) / tak (buttermilk) / Pithala (a guey version of zhunka) or simple yogurt. I love it with jaggery, ghee (clarified butter ) or white butter too.
Full of dietary fibers and other nutrients this is a perfect meal. I have fond memories of my aaji’s kitchen and then my mom’s where the traditional meals were cooked. I am lucky to born into a family where two very different types of cuisines were prepared. One from Maharashtra and the other from Uttarpradesh. We always explore the other state cuisines as everyone loves to relish the variety of food. Getting married into a family that belonged to an area around Himachal and Punjab introduced me to another type of food which was so exciting and delicious. A good change from regular roti chawal meals. Who doesn’t love Makki ki roti and sarson ka saag wit ha glassful of lassi?:)
Since the wheat and rice diet took over most of the indigenous coarse grains and millet took the backstage but now people are waking up to the benefits of these grains and including them in their daily meals which is a very encouraging thing. Now millet and other coarse grains are very easily available in the market. I use the organic flour made from these indigenous grains.
To make Zhunka you can use red onion, spring onion, capsicum, cabbage, radish leaves or fenugreek leaves too. The traditional recipe is done with basic red onion which everyone could afford in those days. Now, of course it is an indulgence 🙂
To make bhakar, use sorghum flour / pearl millet flour / rice flour/ ragi (nachni) finger millet flour or mixed grain flour. Some people add a little wheat flour for binding but I don’t. Bhakar is a staple food in many states. The farmers used to eat it with thecha ( green chili /garlic chutney), and raw onions, gud (jaggery) if not with zhunka, leafy greens, stuffed brinjal curry or pithla.
Let us first make the spring onion Zhunka. ‘Khamang‘ is the word to describe its taste and flavor in marathi. I do not know how to describe that in any other language. ‘Sondha‘ in Hindi comes closer. You will know what I mean when the dish is ready.
Ingredients for Zhunka:
Spring Onions (scallions) – 1/2 kg
cumin seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
whole red chili – 1 big or 2 small
Chickpea flour (besan) – 1/2 cup
Red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon ( as per your need)
Salt – to taste
A pinch or two of Asafoitida
Turmeric Powder – 1 teaspoon
Mustard oil – 3 -4 tablespoons.
1. Clean /wash the spring onions and separate the bulb from the green tops. It is easier to cut this way. Now chop them fine and keep aside. Prefer fresh spring onions which have long, deep green slender tops and medium size bulb. Avoid the ones that are slimy or wilting.
2. Put a skillet pan or wok on high flame. I use iron kadhai for making this. Once the kadhai is hot turn the flame to medium and add mustard oil. Bring it to smoking point and turn the flame low. It is important to smoke mustard oil.
3. Add asafoitida, cumin seeds and whole red chili (some people add garlic too. I don’t). Once the seeds start to crackle add the chopped spring onions and give it a stir.
4. Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder and stir. put the lid and let it cook till the onions become soft.
5. Open the lid and sprinkle chickpea flour or besan over the spring onions. Don’t dry the liquid from the vegetable. It will keep the zhunka soft yet crisp. Keep mixing the flour to avoid lumps. The proportion is different from person to person. I add enough to coat the spring onions in a thick coat. The traditional recipe calls for the chickpea flour to be mixed in water and then added. I prefer the taste of this one.
6. Increase the flame to medium -high and cook it covered for 5 minutes then uncovered till the flour (besan) browns nicely. Stir the vegetable so that it browns properly as in the picture. Some people like it dry but I love the softness and add besan accordingly.
7. Again lower the heat and cook it covered for 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
Your fragrant zhunka is ready to be served with the bhakar.
To make the Bhakar or bhakri you will need :
Bajra flour – 2 cup
Hot water – as needed for kneading
salt – 1/2 teaspoon
Making flat unleavened bread with these grains is a tad bit tough and needs a little practice.
- Take out two cups of bajra flour in a parat or any other broad utensil. Add salt to it.
- Heat some water beforehand. Make a well in the middle of the bajra flour and slowly add water to it. Knead it as you gather the flour with your fingers. First it will be crumbly but slowly it will begin to bind. Go easy on water or you will have a mess in your hands. The dough needs little water.
- Knead the dough with your fist and palm properly for 5-7 minutes till you get a soft dough.
- Drizzle a little oil if you wish to avoid the skin to form on the dough. I keep it covered with a moist cloth.
- Heat the tawa/griddle on medium flame while you divide the dough in equal size balls. The size depends on how big you want your bhakri to be.
- Now, sprinkle some dry flour in the parat and flatten the ball with your palm. Keep flattening till it is round in shape. Wet your hands or sprinkle some dry flour if it sticks. You can do it on the rolling board or chakla too. I make it by patting in between my palms but that needs practice.
- Another easier way is to put the ball in a zip-lock bag and use the rolling pin to make a round bhakri. It always works well. You can apply a bit of oil before starting the process.
- Once the bhakri is made, gently transfer it to the tawa/ griddle. When the upper surface become dry and puffs up in places, apply a little water to the surface and flip. Your bhakri will have brown spots on the other side. Let it cook and flip again. Cook again for a few seconds. Keep the heat low-medium.
- Once the bhakri is browned from both sides, take it off the tawa and cook on direct flame for a few seconds with the help of tongs/chimta.
- If you are cooking the bhakri on hot plate or cant use tongs then press the bhakri with a cloth or flat wooden spoon on both sides alternately to fluff it.
- Apply ghee / butter and eat it with whatever pleases you.
The bhakris in the photographs aren’t very round as I made them by flattening them between hands. Still don’t get them right many times. :p
You can make bhakri with any flour using this method. I even make makki ki roti or corn flour flat bread like this.
Enjoy this hearty meal any time of the day for good health and soak in the flavors of rustic nutritious food.
I made one extra bhakri to eat with the Organic jaggery and ghee ( clarified butter) . Nothing to beat that on a winter afternoon. This is what good food is all about.
I make laddoos from jowar/ ragi and bajra too. Try them.
Make these two very traditional vegetables to eat with the bhakri.
Rustic meals are unrefined, simple, healthy, warm and inviting. Include millet in your daily meals and stay healthy.