There was once a little vegetarian Indian restaurant not too far from my house. The first time I went there I ordered Pav Bhaji, which is a meal of spiced smashed veggies served with bread buns. I was hooked after the first bite. I tried other dishes over the years: Dosas, different veggie curries, etc. They were all good, but when the restaurant closed down I was literally almost traumatized that I might never have my Pav Bhaji again. I still have yet to find another Indian restaurant that serves them and is local to me. So after years of griping, I finally got off my butt and decided to do some research.
I started by looking through cookbooks. I own a few, but they didn’t have this dish. I went to my local library, which has a large selection of cookbooks. Still, the recipe eluded me. I was a tiny bit frightened to look it up online. In the past, most of the more authentic recipes tended to not be in english. Thank God that there are now more food bloggers than ever and so I finally found a website with written recipes in English and even accompanying videos. The lady’s name is Manjula. Her website is foreigner friendly, and thankfully she’s a brilliant home cook to boot.
I have included her recipe below but if you want to see her in action just click here!
In the following recipe, I have made the adjustments to how I had cooked it that day. I stayed pretty true to her cooking but anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stick to a recipe to save my life. I’m always making changes and tinkering. This being the first time I made this dish, I made minor changes such as I slightly increased some of the veg, used a little less fat, etc. Another tip is to use good quality, fresh spices. If you live in the USA but don’t have a good local spice market, I get my spices from World Spice Market in Seattle’s Pike Place Market (click here for the website). They will ship them to you.
If you haven’t had the pleasure to have this dish before, you’re in for a treat. This is no boring bland veggie dish. It is so full of flavor that you will probably not even notice the lack of meat. I know I never do.
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
- 1/2 cup chopped green or yellow wax beans
- 1/2 cup peas – fresh or frozen
- 2 carrots chopped
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 Serrano chilies chopped
- 2 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 3 chopped roma tomatoes – deseeded
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder – I used dried red Asian chilies that I removed the seeds and ground
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed – ground to a powder
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala – I like the Kashmiri variety
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- A few Tablespoons of chopped cilantro
- When prepping your veg, make sure to slice them rather thin. It helps with the smashing process later.
- In a medium to large pot, boil the potatoes, cauliflower, beans, peas, and beans in 1 ½ cup of water.
- When the veggies become tender, drain the water and gently mash with a potato masher. Do not smash them to a pulp, you still want to be able to see the individual carrot chunks and such.
- Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add oil and swirl it for a minute until it gets hot. Add the tomatoes, serrano chilies, cilantro, and ginger and fry for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes become almost paste like. Next, add the red chili powder, fennel seed and turmeric, stirring everything together. Then, add all the smashed vegetables.
- Use a spatula to smash and mix everything for about five minutes. Do not make a paste, you still want to see the individual pops of color from the different veg. Add salt and two tablespoons of butter and cook for another minute. Add 2-6 Tablespoons of water as needed. You want the veg to not become too dry.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the garam masala, and lemon juice. Mix it well.
This is traditionally served with buttered toasted bread buns. I ate mine by itself because I was in too much of a hurry to remember to grab bread before I made this. I was so happy with how it tasted I didn’t even miss the bread. Even Thogg, who doesn’t usually like Indian food and doesn’t like most spicy food liked this. This does have a good spicy kick but it won’t kill you if you remember to take out the seeds from the green chilies.