Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pav Bhaji

No, I did not forget. There's no garlic here, no ginger.  Just this once.
If you are going to prepare a home-made Indian Ultrafeast for forty people, you are insane. If some of those people don't even like Indian food, then you are twice as insane. And you are definitely going to need some Midwest-meets-Mumbai dishes. You know, like sliders. Vegetarian sliders.

Pav bhaji is Mumbai street food: a plain dinner roll (pav) split and filled with spicy curried vegetables (bhaji). The dinner rolls can be white or wheat, your call. Or, serve the bhaji as a vegetable side dish with other Indian fare. You can adjust the vegetable combinations, you can ramp the seasoning up or down.

Sauté until translucent, but not caramelized.
What You Need
  • 1kg (2 lbs) potatoes
  • 500g (about ½ large head) cauliflower
  • 265g (3-4 medium-large) carrots
  • 300g (1 medium-large) red onion
  • 200g (1 medium-large) green bell pepper
  • 600g (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri mirch (chili powder)
  • 1-2 TBS pav bhaji masala
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp amchoor (green mango powder)
  • 150g (1 cup) frozen petite peas (thawed)
  • 24 small dinner rolls
Cook the tomatoes...peel them only if you must.

What You Do
  1. Scrub the (unpeeled) potatoes, then boil in salted water until very tender.
  2. While the potatoes cook, chop the vegetables. Cut the cauliflower and carrots into roughly equal sized pieces. Dice the onion and pepper into medium-small pieces, and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  3. Combine your dry spices (except cumin seed) in a small prep bowl.
  4. When the potatoes are tender, remove them from the boiling water. Set aside to cool. Add the carrot and cauliflower to the same boiling water, and cook until just tender. Drain the vegetables, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid.
  5. Peel the potatoes and smash them in a bowl. You don't need a smooth mash, but you don't want huge chunks.
  6. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds. When they start to sputter, add the onion and green pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  7. Add the tomatoes (along with any juice), stir and cook until they begin to break down. Add the dry spice mixture, and stir well. If the vegetables seem a bit dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.
  8. Add the potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Use very low heat, and make sure the mixture is moist. Add the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking.
  9. Cook until you have the desired consistency. This is traditionally prepared as almost a puree, with very few chunks.
  10. Add the peas at the very end. Mix in and cook just until they are tender.
  11. To serve, split the dinner rolls and make sandwiches using the bhaji as a filling.
You can stir in the peas right now, and eat it chunky on a plate.
What You Eat
There is a lot of bhaji here, and if you start with 24 rolls (two packages of King's Hawiian, for example), you can stuff each sandwich with about ½ cup of curry (which will be very generous amount of filling). One pav bhaji, then, will have:

Calories 145 Protein 4.5g Vitamin B6 12%
Fat 3.2g Vitamin A 45% Folate 12%
Saturated Fat 0.57g Vitamin C 53% Vitamin B12 0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.73g Calcium 7.2% Pantothenic Acid 4.7%
Monounsaturated Fat 1.6g Iron 9.8% Phosphorus 8.8%
Cholesterol 0mg Vitamin D 0% Magnesium 8.0%
Sodium 264mg Vitamin E 3.5% Zinc 4.1%
Potassium 421mg Thiamin 14% Copper 7.2%
Carbohydrate 26g Riboflavin 7.6% Selenium 14%
Fiber 4.0g Niacin 11% Manganese 25%
Sugars 3.6g

What You Learn
Or you can keep cooking until it is smoother, and serve it on a roll.
  • The proportions here are very forgiving. For the sake of nutrition information, I weighed everything carefully. Use more carrots if you like carrots. Use a can of diced tomatoes if you can't get good fresh ones. Skip the peas if you hate peas, and use those leftover green beans just to get them out of the fridge. It will still taste great.
  • I used waxy Yukon Gold potatoes, as opposed to floury Russets. I happen to like the slightly denser and more flavorful waxy potatoes, but there's nothing wrong with using the russets you have. However, a floury potato will absorb more moisture, so you will need to make sure to keep your mixture wet enough.
  • The first batch I made, I blanched my tomatoes and peeled them before chopping. Way too much work. Second batch, I used up a carton of tiny grape tomatoes, which I halved but did not peel. Less work, no real difference.
  • I used less mirch and pav bhaji masala the first time. Yummy, but in the second iteration I upped both a bit for more spicy heat. If you aren't a fan of superfirehot, start with less spice. You can always add more if you need to.
  • Save that cooking water! Pour the nutrition back into the pot, not down the sink. But make sure you scrub your potatoes so you are not pouring dirt and grit into the bhaji along with water-soluble vitamins.
  • This is pretty good if you leave the vegetables chunky, and serve it as a side dish. It doesn't have to be served on rolls. Serve and eat it however you like it.
  • It also improves with sitting. It's better the next day, and absolutely insanely good the day after that.
  • If you want to make a fancy presentation, you can butter and toast your rolls, garnish with chopped red onion and cilantro. Or you can just devour it like a wild animal. Your call.

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