It has been mentioned once or twice that this site could use more food posts. Never let it be said that Management is unresponsive. And consider this an invitation to all with authoring privileges to contribute to this intermittent series, The Nation Has An Appetite. (If you don't have authoring privileges and have a burning desire to contribute posts, talk to the Milkman)
I recently purchased from my local grocer a handful of foil pouch packages of heat-and-serve Indian dishes, one of which I had for lunch last week at work -- Pav Bhaji, or Mashed Vegetable curry, by Kitchens of India. It was among the better $3 I've spent recently, because that stuff was delicious.
Still, I knew that I could probably make a whole vat of bhaji (the "pav" part refers to the bread that is the traditional accompaniment) for about the same price as this single serving. My mouth has been watering at the prospect for days.
Pav Bahji is a popular street food in Gujarat and Maharashtra, tracing its origins to the early industrial revolution period in India. Mumbai was a textile mill town, and pav bahji is basically a vegetarian sloppy joe.
I worked off of this recipe from the website manjulaskitchen.com. If you have any interest in learning to cook Indian food, I can heartily recommend the website. Lots of good info there. But I am constitutionally incapable of simply following a recipe. So here's my variation
|3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and chunked||1 c. carrots, coarsely chopped|
|1 c. green beans, coarsely chopped||1 1/2 c. water|
|1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil||1 large onion, finely chopped|
|1 inch ginger, finely chopped||3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped|
|1 7-oz can chopped, fire-roasted chiles||1 small can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes|
|1/2 c. chopped mushrooms||1/2 c. frozen peas|
|1 tbsp chile powder (I used New Mexican)||1/2 tsp cayenne||1 tbsp turmeric|
|1 tsp coriander seed, ground||1/2 tsp fennel or anise seed, ground||1 tbsp ground cumin|
|3-4 cardamom pods, cracked to remove the seeds, and the seeds ground|
|1 tbsp kosher salt||1/4 c. water|
|juice of half a lemon||1 tbsp garam masala|
|1 tsp Amchur powder (green mango, dried and ground; available in Asian or Indian markets)||additional olive oil|
|chopped cilantro for garnish||dinner rolls or similar buns|
In a pot, bring the 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the potatoes, carrots and green beans and cook, covered, until the vegetables are soft and most of the water has evaporated. Mash with a potato masher and reserve. (I actually added these vegetables in stages -- first the carrot, then the potatoes after a couple of minutes, then the green beans after a couple more minutes; that way, the carrots cooked through and the green beans didn't turn to gray mush)
In a large skillet (or I used my cast iron dutch oven, which is my go-to pot for cooking curries), saute the onion in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the ginger and garlic.
Saute for a minute, then add the mushrooms. Saute for another minute or two, then add the chiles.
Again, saute for a minute or two, then add the canned tomatoes (you can substitute chopped, fresh tomatoes, but this is what I had on hand). Fry for 5 minutes or so.
Add the chile powders, cumin, turmeric, coriander, fennel/anise and cardamom.
Fry for a minute, then mix in the mashed vegetables. Fry, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
Add the salt and about 2 tbsp more oil, and fry another minute.
Stir in the frozen peas.
Add the 1/4 water if the mixture is getting very thick. Mix the water in for a minute, then turn off the heat.
Add the garam masala, Amchur powder and lemon juice. Stir well to incorporate.
Pan-toast the bread, cut-side down, in plenty of olive oil, then sprinkle a little salt on the toasted sides. Serve a healthy scoop on each half-bun, garnished with chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.
A good variation for those of you without a vegan daughter -- replace the oil with ghee. It gives a much richer flavor, although this version was a big hit with my carnivorous son as well. You can also substitute freely with other vegetables in the mash, as long as you build around the potatoes. Cauliflower is a common addition.
Serve with a nice, cold lager.