My Indian friends from work threw a little Diwali party at their apartment last Friday, and I must say it was a very enjoyable evening, with good food, great company and lots of dancing. Moreover, it's hard not to fall in love with the phenomenal view from the balcony of the 33rd floor apartment right in the heart of Sydney. Dinner was a wonderful spread of home-cooked vegetarian dishes, including pasta, salad and this delicious dish called pav bhaji. Pav (pronounced "pau" as in char siew pau) is equivalent to bun/bread, and bhaji refers to a vegetable dish. Apparently (or so internet sources say), pav bhaji is a popular Indian streetfood snack that originated in Marathi cuisine. It is basically a dish of mashed vegetables cooked in spices, and served with fried buttered pav. This dish uses loads of butter, which explains why it tastes so good. The bhaji is also topped with chopped onions, coriander and a splash of lemon juice which lifts the flavours in the dish.
Here are ten good reasons to love pav bhaji:
1. It's vegetarian, so it contains loads of veggies which are good for you.
2. It's got potatoes, which I love!
3. Great flavour from the spices, and it doesn't have to be spicy (hot).
4. The dish is cooked with butter.
5. The dish is served with more butter.
6. The pav (bun) is fried with lots of butter.
7. It's almost like an Indian vegetarian version of a Coney dog, sans the dog.
8. It's not too difficult to prepare if you use a food processor to blend the veggies.
9. It tastes sooooo good, even though there's no meat (although that could be an option).
10. Butter. I love butter, don't you?
Here is my version of the recipe for this dish. You can use hamburger or hotdog buns for the pav. As for the vegetables, any combination of capsicum (bell peppers), carrots, peas, cauliflower or eggplant will do. The spice used is pav bhaji masala, which should be available at most Indian grocery stores.
Vegetables, boiled and mashed/pureed:
2 large (or 3 medium) potatoes
1/2 cup green capsicum (bell peppers), chopped
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups cauliflower, chopped
1/4 cup peas
3 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 tbsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp pav bhaji masala
1-2 cups water
1/8 tsp hing powder (asafoetida) (optional)
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
Salt and black pepper
Pav (burger or hotdog buns will do)
Chopped coriander leaves
1 small onion, chopped
In a large non-stick pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry until onions are softened, then add tomatoes. Fry until tomatoes are slightly dry, then mix in the mashed vegetables and potatoes. Add tomato paste, chilli powder, turmeric and masala. Mix well and add 1 cup water. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Add asafoetida, crushed fenugreek leaves, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in some chopped coriander leaves and the juice of half a lemon. Simmer, adding more water if necessary and cook until it turns into a thick gravy. Dish out and add a knob of butter on top, garnished with chopped onions and coriander leaves. Serve with fried pav.
For the pav, slice the buns in half horizontally, and fry in butter until lightly browned and crisp. Serve with the prepared vegetables (bhaji) and some lemon wedges.
Note: If you don't have pav bhaji masala, try substituting with garam masala instead.