It’s summer and a damn hot one at that too. So why am I suddenly craving a Pav bhaji?! I’ll tell you why. It is an ingenious and incredibly tasty invention I come back to time and time over, from one of my favourite cities in the world – Bombay. Created back in the 1850’s, as im reliably told by wikipedia, Pav origninates from the Portuguese Pao, meaning bread. Bhaji in Marathi means vegetable dish. The bhaji consists a combination of vegetables, principally potato, peas, aubergine and cauliflower (though as with most Indian recipes, this varies in restaurants and households, state to state).
It is also a dish very close to my heart, as I grew up eating this staple meal, made by the loving hands of my father. Having grown up in Bombay and spent most of his youth hanging out with friends sipping sweet milky chai from clay pots at the city’s street food vendors, my father was a dab hand at most maharastrian street food dishes including; bhel puri, pani puri and hot crispy bhajias. His best though and the one he will always remain synonymous with in family circles, is his finger licking pau bhaji.
So as the first recipe on this blog, and hopefully one of many to come, I’m paying homage to both my dad, or papa as I affectionately called him, and to one of my favourite cities; Bombay, by sharing this ‘chatpata’ (delicious as they’d say in India) dish with you.
Butter – 200g and a little extra for greasing the buns and then some more for garnish if you’re daring enough
Potatoes – 4 medium sized
Cauliflower – 1 small, roughly chopped
Cabbage – 1 small, roughly chopped
Aubergine – 1 medium, roughly chopped
Green peas (fresh or frozen) – 4 heaped tbsp
X2 tins of chopped tomatoes (you can also use passata or 5/6 fresh tomatoes with added paste)
Onion – 1 large, finely diced
Green pepper – 1 medium, finely diced
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Pau bhaji masala – 3-4 tbsp (my father always preferred the MDH brand of masala but mangal will do too)
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt – 4 tsp or to taste
Chilli powder – if required (I find the masala does the job but if you want more then kashmiri mirch will be better than adding more masala)
Coriander – large handful, finely chopped
Buns (2 per person at least, I’m a wholemeal fan and I feel it brings out the flavour of the bhaji more but white or even seeded works)
1. In a large pressure cooker or potpan, boil the potatoes, roughly chopped aubergine, cabbage, cauliflower and peas together. This should take 30-40 mins or so. Less time if pressure cooking.
2. Meanwhile, finely dice the onion, green pepper and garlic clove(and tomatoes, if using fresh).
3. After all the vegetables are boiled, peel and mash the potatoes first into a smooth-ish mash. Add in the rest of the boiled vegetables and give them a good mashing too. The texture is up to you, based on your preference, but ideally it should have some depth to it (basically, not baby food).
4. In a large saucepan add the butter on medium heat. When it melts add the cumin seeds and allow them to brown a little. Once sizzling, add in the onion and green pepper and keep on medium heat until soft. Add the garlic a few minutes later.
4. After 5-10 minutes, when the onion has softened, add the vegetable mash and stir. Add the tomatoes (tinned/pureed/freshly chopped with added paste).You’ll then need to add some water to give it a thick pasta sauce-like consistency Add the pau bhaji masala masala (start with 3 tbsp and see how you go), and stir.
5. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan, carefully making sure the seeds don’t go in (If you don’t have a fancy strainer just hold out your hand as a make-do strainer, so the seeds get caught in your palm and only the juice flows through). Add the salt and chilli powder (if required) and stir. Leave on slow to medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Chop up a handful of coriander and add it to the pan just before you turn heat off.
6. Serve with buttered rolls, heated on a frying/griddle pan. You can also further garnish the bhaji with more coriander, a slab of butter (as my dad used to) and raw onion for a fully authentic finish.