Recipe: Ghugni

This dish used to be a Thursday ‘fast’ special. Papa used to (still does) fast on Thursdays, which means he skipped breakfast and a proper lunch. Mamma used to make ghoogni for him and we joined in as well. I think most families from Bengal and Bihar – neighbouring states, they have a lot of food and cooking in common – have fond memories of ghoogni.
The other day a college mate in New York – we were ‘speaking’ after nearly eight years! – mentioned reading my post on sandwiches in Australia. I had mentioned the ghoogni in passing in that post. “I wanted you to know this,” she said and proceeded to tell me that reading the post reminded her how much she loved ghooghni. She had called her mom back in India for the recipe and has since made the dish a number of times. I was quite touched. Ghoogni in New York and now ghoogni in Melbourne. Hah, culinary conquests I say!

Ghoogni/ ghugni (Sautéed green peas salad with Bengali five spices)
Serves: 2
Cooked on: Low heat
Accompanimen: A dash of lime juice along with a steaming cup of tea or soup!
Try this with: Soft, white bread or puris

INGREDIENTSVegetable/canola/olive oil: 1 TBS
Peas: 2 cups, fresh or frozen (thawed)
Onion: 1 big, finely chopped
Ginger: 1 TBS, skin removed and finely grated
Tomato: 2 medium, finely diced
Fennel: 2 TSP (optional)
Red chilli ground: 1 TSP (optional)
Dry mango powder/ amchoor: ½ TSP (optional) OR
Sugar: 1 TSP
Salt: to taste
Black pepper: 1 TSP
Garam masala: 1 TSP (optional)
Lemon juice: 1 TBS (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a wok/pan with lid. Once the oil is hot, add the fennel seeds and allow to splutter. The fennel is optional; you can skip it.
  2. Once the fennel splutters, add the onions and fry them till they turn slightly pink. Now add the grated ginger and fry for 3 minutes.
  3. Next add the salt, pepper, red chilli powder and garam masala and fry for another 3 minutes till the onions are coated with the spice mixture.
  4. Add the tomatoes and fry till the tomatoes – mashing them with the spatula – till the tomatoes soften and are pulverised.
  5. Fry the mix for 3-4 minutes till the spices start sticking to the bottom of the wok/pan (but can be easily scraped off). This is your sign that the masala (spice mix) is cooked.
  6. Finally add the green peas and cook for another 3 minutes till the peas get a ‘shine’ on them.
  7. Sprinkle a little water, cover the wok/pan and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle the amchoor or sugar and fry for 3 minutes.
You’re done! Squeeze some lemon juice and you’re ready to go.
Want to know more about your peas? Here’s where you go.

  1. This is a rather quick and very versatile dish that can be happily modified to suit your taste. With or without spices, the green peas make for healthy eating. There is a Bengali version of the recipe as well as one that comes from Bihar. Some also like making this with minced meat, but we are sticking to the vegetarian version. I shall be making my version!
  2. It can be made using either green peas (fresh or frozen) or chickpeas. If using frozen green peas, do thaw them (naturally or in the microwave); for using chickpeas it’s a good idea to soak them overnight. I prefer making ghooghni with green peas.
  3. Today’s recipe only uses green peas, you can add numerous other vegies as well. While technically it won’t be ghooghni; it will make for a darned tasty dish. Just remember that everything has to be finely chopped/diced.
  4. Vegies that go very well with this dish: Baby carrots, corn (steam them first), baby corn, button mushrooms and potatoes. If you wish to use other vegies, feel free; just remember not to overpower the flavour of the green peas.
  5. I prefer my ghooghni to be somewhat sweet-n-spicy; however, you can skip the garam masala and simply stick with salt and pepper. It still tastes good! Butter your bread and pile it up with ghooghni or have a bowlful with a steaming cup of chai or even your favourite soup.
  6. Also, chai in India means tea and not the just the full-of-spice tea that you get in jars in Australia.

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