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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pav Bhaaji

Pav bhaaji is a dish which is a potpourri of vegetables and is a complete meal. I have made this dish often and you can find the standard recipe on the back of the pav bhaaji masala box, however it is not easy to replicate the taste of the restaurant pav bhaaji. I must mention here that not all restaurants in India are equal where it comes to  the authentic pav bhaaji taste. One of my favorite places was a restaurant near my home, and my friends and I used to always start salivating when we passed by and smelt the wonderful aroma wafting from the restaurant. The bhaaji used to be continuously cooked on a large flat "tava" outdoors where people used to be seated. The tava was dark, looked like it was made of iron and seemed to be specialized for the pav bhaaji. Pav bhaaji means bread with vegetable. The bhaaji/vegetable consists of several different veggies. It has been very rare to come across really well made pav bhaaji here and while most people make a pretty decent version, I was really yearning to eat the one that tasted like the one back home.

It was two years ago that my sister-in-law made this bhaaji. She cooked it for a party and had made enough for about 30 guests. It was a great hit and even though she had made a large quantity, it was almost gone by the end of dinner. Her version was so close to the restaurant version that I just had to jot down the recipe. I have tried it and it turned out great. The key is to be  patient, and let everything cook properly. You will be pleasantly surprised when you follow this recipe.

2 tbsp oil
1-2 tbsp butter
½ medium cauliflower florets (about 1 cup of florets)
1 green bell pepper
1 large red onion or 2 medium red onions finely chopped
½ cup peas - thawed or if you are using fresh peas, cook them through by boiling in water
3-4 medium size potatoes - boiled and mashed
2-3 tomatoes finely diced
1 inch ginger
1 tbsp finely minced garlic or garlic paste
Red chilli powder to taste
3-5 tbsp pav bhaji masala
1 tsp jeera dhania powder (cumin-coriander powder)
Salt to taste
Finely chopped cilantro for garnish
Lemon wedges and finely chopped onion to serve with
Dinner rolls

Heat the oil and to this add the onions. Once these are cooked till transparent, add the garlic and ginger. This mixture needs to be cooked till the raw smell of the mixture goes away. This can take a few mins, but this is the phase you need to be patient and let it all cook through. While this is cooking, boil the cauliflower florets in water, till it is tender. It shouldn't be too soft, just cooked through. Once the onion, garlic ginger are cooked through, add the bell pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are cooked through, add the cauliflower florets. Cook this mixture well for a few minutes. To this mixture add the chilli powder, jeera dhania powder, pav bhaaji masala and cook for a couple of minutes. The pav bhaaji masala quantity would need to be adjusted based on how spicy your masala is. Add the potatoes, mix thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the peas. Cook for a few minutes more. Add the salt and adjust the chilli to your taste. Finally add the butter and mix it through.

Serve this bhaaji with toasted dinner rolls. The easiest way to roast these is to slice them through into two pieces horizontally and apply a little butter and then toast on a pan or broil.  Add a little butter to the bhaaji when you serve it and garnish with cilantro, chopped onion. Add a wedge of lime.

You can add more butter while you are making the bhaaji, instead of adding it at the end. This enhances the taste.
This is a easy recipe to scale up and popular to make for a large gathering of people. To toast a large number of dinner rolls at a time, broil these on the high setting for a couple of minutes. Also, the dinner rolls cook through very quickly when broiling.


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