Pav bhaji was the first proper meal I ever cooked in my adolescence. I was at a friend’s place for a sleepover and planned to Order Pizza for the dinner. But then her parents went for a party and in an advent to do something crazy we decided to cook. Yeah, when I think of it, it doesn’t sound that crazy.
So we looked for the vegetables and since none of us had much experience in this area, we went for the simplest of all- potatoes! Along with, there were some freshly shelled green peas in a bowl so we thought to make Alu Matar first. But then we didn’t know what spices to use for that, so dropped the idea. Next we thought about making Pulav, but didn’t know which rice to use etc. So that was cancelled too.
After a heavy brainstorming session, we found a pack of Pav bhaji masala in the spice shelf and the procedure written on the packet sounded pretty simple to follow. Just cop everything, add the masala with some salt and red chili powder and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles. That’s it! Well, it wasn’t that simple but it seemed like it that time.
We followed the lame procedure and the result was not less than awesome or so it felt at the time. We had it both for lunch with paav and then again with rice for dinner and were so proud of ourselves. I now wonder how those little things made us so content. *sigh* happy days!
I still like to have Paav bhaji once in a while, though not in absolute love with it due to the fact that it involves so much of (useless) carbs to take in. And then who can have it without the dollops of butter on top? At toh totally cant. Potatoes are still fine to have, but those Paavs just get a bit over the top. And honestly, Bhaji doesn’t taste that good with whole wheat paavs. So yeah, it’s a luxury item at my place and falls strictly under Sunday brunch category.
The good thing about paav bhaji though is, that you can play with the ingredients. If you are working on cutting down on carbs or excessive fat, you may reduce the quanity of potatoes and add more green peas and beans instead. Some like to have mooli (Indian raddish) in it, and some do it with cabbage. I rather like the combination of just 4 things – potatoes, cauliflower, green peas and bell peppers (capsicums) with some cabbage and carrot. That’s my combination, you are free to play around with it. Add some, reduce some and get your perfect Bhaji.
Another good thing is that it’s a very versatile sabji and can be made chunky if having with rotis, mashed up if having with paavs and runny if you are pairing it with rice. The most famous one among all is the Paav-bhaji combo though, which is also the most loved street food of the state of Maharashtra in India. It’s cheap, its instant and its always available. What’s not to love, hmm?
And then, its Vegan too. If you don’t add butter on top, the bhaji in itself is a vegan dish.
Like I said, everyone has a different recipe for this dish. Some don’t like to use the readymade masala at all, and swear that the taste is very different when the freshly prepared variety is used. I too vouch for that, but then not everyone has time and patience to prepare the spice mix at home at often. So I have used the Paav bhaji masala (Everest brand), and it works pretty well for me. If you don’t want to use the readymade masala, I have given a spice mix recipe in the notes which may help you to achieve the same level of taste and aroma.
- 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled (any kind is fine)
- 1 cup green peas, shelled or thawed if frozen
- A small bunch of green beans / French beans – chopped
- 1 cup of cauliflower florets, chopped
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cabbage ( a small piece of cabbage will yield this much)
- 2 carrots – chopped small
- 1 large sized bell pepper, cleaned, chopped
- 2 tbsp cooking oil ( I use Olive oil or ground nut oil for the bhaji)
- 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2-3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp Paav bhaji masala (recipe given in the notes for preparing fresh at home)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- Salt to taste – approx. 1 ½ tsp
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges – for serving
- 1 salad onion, sliced in rings – for serving
- Cilantro for garnish (coriander leaves) – to garnish
- 2-3 tbsp of butter for roasting paavs (dinner rolls) + extra to be served with bhaji – to garnish
- Paav (pav) – dinner rolls/buns to serve along with bhaji
- Throw in all the vegetables in a pressure cooker (except bell peppers, onion and tomatoes), with 2 cups of water. Cook till 2 whistles and turn off. Open when pressure eases off, and drain excess water if any. If using a wide pan instead of pressure cooker, cook it covered for almost 30-340 minutes on medium flame so to get everything in a mushy state.
- Mash the vegetables using a potato masher in the same vessel (pressure cooker in our case). The texture of the individual vegetable should not be prominent and everything should get mixed up together . Keep aside
- Now, heat oil in a large thick bottomed pan or wok (kadhai) on medium flame. Once its hot, add ginger garlic paste and fry for half a minute. Add in chopped onion and sauté for the next 5-6 minutes.
- Add in bell pepper to the pan and sauté till it gets soft. Add turmeric, red chili powder and salt. Mix together and cook for a minute further
- Add tomatoes now, along with the Paav bhaji masala, mix well and cook for the next 7-9 minutes till tomatoes are all mashed up. Keep it covered while cooking tomatoes
- Add mashed vegetables and mix everything well together. Simmer for further 8-10 minutes, covered and stirring in between. Turn off the gas
- Transfer the bhaaji in a serving dish, garnish with cilantro and a dollop of butter. Keep lemon wedges aside along with the onion rings.
Serve with Paavs –
- Slice pav horizontally into two cutting from the middle. Brush cut sides liberally (as liberal as you can get!) with butter and sprinkle some pepper powder.
- Heat a thick bottom skillet. Toast both sides of pav on the skillet till lightly browned.
- 2 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 ½ tbsp Dry Mango Powder
- 1 ½ tbsp Black Peppercorns
- 1 ½ tbsp Fennel Seeds
- 6-8 small pieces of cinnamon
- 7-8 Dried Red Chillies
- 5-6 Cardamom pods
- 2-3 Cloves
- ½ tsp black salt
- Heat a pan and add the all the ingredients (except dry mango powder and black salt)
- Dry roast the on a low flame for a few minutes or till nice aroma is released.
- Turn off the flame and let it cool completely.
- Grind the roasted ingredients, turmeric and dry mango powder to a fine powder in a mixer.
- Store in a clean dry container.
- I add a lot of chopped garlic to the recipe which is not how its made traditionally., but it gives a nice pungent touch to the dish
- I also add 1 tbsp of Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) just towards the end. It gives a nice aroma and taste to the whole dish.
- If you are looking for the vegan option – skip the butter on bhaji and on the paavs. You may use oil to toast the paavs instead
- I usually just dry toast the dinner rolls (pavs) in a bread toaster, and so I don’t apply any butter to them which makes this dish a bit healthier one to have. Using whole wheat buns/rolls is also an option. But if you are using whole wheat buns, don’t keep them for long. Eat them freshly toasted else they will go all soggy and rubbery
If you are looking for more Maharashtrian recipe, why not try the speciality breakfast Kanda Poha
And also a delicious and super healthy curry made of green sprouts, traditionally called Usal a.k.a Sprouts ki dal