Capsicum (Bell Pepper) Besan Zhunka
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Besan – a hidden Indian delicacy using gram flour. Here is another hidden gem using gram flour.
Just for a moment picture yourself as a typical Indian farmer. You wake up early in the morning – probably it’s around 5am. It’s a bit chilly at this point so you wrap your dark shawl around your shoulders. Perhaps a wool scarf around your ears – tied in a knot at the nape at your neck. Before you head out for your long physical day working your fields under the tropical Indian sun, you have to make your lunch. The lunch you’ll have sitting under the shade of a tree with the other local famers. Where you will trade news, gossip and tips. You start up the coal oven and decide to make yourself some veggies. It has to be something that can stay unrefrigerated at least till lunch.. something that you can put in a tiffin and not worry about it spilling out while you ride your bike over the bumpy dirt roads. And it should go well with the leftover Bhakri. What do you make?
You make the Capsicum Besan Zhunka.
This is a very traditional dish. Made by farmers (and non famers) in many parts of India. My family made this for road trips because it’s dry making it easy to transport and because it lasts for a while even if it’s not refrigerated. We also make it just whenever we have the craving for besan (gram flour).
It’s a great savory dish that you can eat with any Indian bread. You can also just have it with rice (which is what I typically do). It is a little dry so I generally have a side of plain yogurt with it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Capsicum (Bell Pepper) Besan Zhunka
Makes: 6-8 servings
Ready in: 40 minutes
- 2 medium sized Green Bell Peppers (Capsicum)
- 2 green chillis (optional)
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 3 green onion stalks (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups of besan (gram flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 dashes of hing (asafetida)
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- About 1 1/2 cup of water
- 2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 1/2 fresh lemon
- Shredded coconut and fresh coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
1. Cut the bell pepper into inch wide pieces. Remember to discard the seeds. Cut the green onion into tiny circular slices. Mince the ginger. Slit the chillis in half – discard the seeds inside if you want the dish to not be as spicy.
2. Sift the gram flour if required. On medium low, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the gram flour for 5 minutes. This allows the gram flour to roast and gives a really good flavor to the dish.
3. Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat. Once it’s hot (test by dropping a couple of cumin seeds, they should sizzle), add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric and hing (asafetida). Allow them to pop a bit (about 30 seconds). Then add the bell peppers, ginger and green chillis. Stir to combine and cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Lower heat to medium. Then add cayenne pepper, salt and coriander powder. Stir. Add the gram flour. Stir to combine. After 5 minutes, stir and cover with a lid.
5. Sprinkle about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water over the gram flour. Stir to combine and then cover for another 5 – 7 minutes (long enough for the water to evaporate and gram flour to cook). Repeat this a few times till the gram flour is cooked. You’ll know it’s cooked when the gram flour texture changes – it’ll be fluffy and not sticky.
6. Add the garam masala. Stir to combine. Cover and let it cook again for about 5 minutes. Once done, serve topped with shredded coconut and fresh coriander leaves!