Onion and Fennel Bhajis

One of the South West’s most talented chefs, Martin Blunos was born and brought up near Bath, his parents having come to England from Latvia just after the Second World War. He has held two Michelin stars for more than 15 years and appears regularly on television and radio with regular slots as guest chef on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen with James Martin, BBC Market Kitchen, ITV Daily Cooks and ITV’s Saturday Cooks.

Homemade Heroes

Having spent the last few months travelling up and down the country, this month Martin Blunos enjoys attending an event much closer to home…

I’ve been judging the annual Bath Chef v Chef competition at the City of Bath College for a few years now and every year the standard just keeps getting better. The competition includes three categories – up to 16 years of age, under 23s and over 23s. These young hopefuls are all given a box of goodies plus all the ingredients to make a generic dish (this year crème caramel) a couple of hours to work their magic and then it’s tasting time!

The generic dish is a revelation, how you can end up with so many variations of the same dish using the same ingredients baffles me. You really see a young chef’s free spirit coming out to play and it’s a sight to behold.

The up to 16-year-olds did amazingly well. The gold medal winner Seb Soare was only 12- years-old and cooked with a maturity beyond his years. The relative naivety of the contestants at this level made the dishes simple and honest without over complication – the perfect backdrop for a French classic.

My recipe this month might not be local to Bath, but it’s a little corker that I’m sure would tickle the taste buds of everyone from the Romans through to the present inhabitants of my fair city. I can just imagine the takeaway queues of centurions after a few pints in The Bell on Walcot Street.

Onion and Fennel Bhajis

2 large white onions
1 medium fennel bulb
1 bunch of spring onions
200g chick pea flour
1 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1⁄4 tsp mild red chilli flakes
1⁄4 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp cumin
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
1⁄4 fennel seeds
1⁄4 tsp black onion seeds
100ml cold water


  1. Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix in the water to make a smooth batter.
  2. Trim the fennel and shred it wafer thin – ideally with a mandolin. Shred the spring onions and add to the mixture.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or deep saucepan to 160°C.
  4. Gently drop spoonfuls of the bhaji mix in the oil and cook until golden, turning them from time to time to colour evenly.

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