Green Onions Zunka (A Rural Maharashtrian Farmland Recipe)

They say every recipe has a story to tell. The older the recipe, the better is that story as generations of home cooks give a part of their times and lives to that story; making the story more and more richer, along with the recipe.

This is one such recipe. It's a well loved recipe native to the vast farmlands of central India - close to my homeland. Farmer's life is a hard life in that region subjected to the many whims of weather and landlords. This recipe originated in one such farmland out of necessity. 

As the story goes, a poor farmer's wife was looking to put together a lunch for her family working in the unusually strong heat of the mid-day farmland. The crop that year had been ruined and all she had to go with were onions - green onions. 

She was driven by the necessities but was very creative, so she picked up few large bunches of green onions, separated the whites from greens and chopped both very very fine. Then she made a simple saute with toasted gram flour (besan) and seasoned with cumin powder - and she called this a zunka, simple preparation of toasted gram flour with seasonal vegetable at hand. 

In her basket which she delicately balanced over her head, was this zunka, a handful of freshly made bread and a pickle. But the zunka was so tasty and creative, her family and even other farmer's working nearby devoured it to the last bit and so hence forth zunka and bhakar became the farmer's rich meal, a farmland staple - and took an unmistakable place in the vast array of Maharashtrian cuisine.

Fortunately I wasn't under any such duress but I also came up with only two bunches of green onions from farmer's market yesterday :). This has been an unseasonal wet spring delaying the onset of usual vegetables of this time and leaving us with mere basics. So I did just what the farmer's wife had done - I made a simple zunka which was well loved by everyone.

The recipe is super simple. Toast 1C gram flour or besan taking care to not burn and set aside. Then add oil to a preferably non-stick pot. When hot, temper with 1/2tsp mustard seeds and chopped green chili. 

Add finely chopped onion whites and let them caramelize stirring often. Then add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, saute until fragrant. Follow up with the finely chopped onion greens and the toasted gram flour. Mix well. Add salt 1/2tsp cumin powder and mix well. If too dry, sprinkle a bit of water. The consistency should be crumbly. Remove from heat - serve hot with roti, a slice of raw onion and a pickle or peanut-garlic relish. Enjoy!