Pav Bhaji literally means Bread and Vegetables. It doesn't sound all too
exciting when you put it this way but the 15 million Bombayites who relish
it off the hawkers on the pavement have their taste-buds in the right
place. Pav Bhaji is the quintessential Bombay food. It is a fast-food, but
it takes quite some time to prepare. It can be eaten on the run and yet is
sometimes served in restaurants. It is a half-meal which grabs you by the
gullet and fills the belly without emptying your pocket. Never make this
dish for just you or one other person. A pav bhaji session is for a group
of at least 5! The 5 people in question must have a good appetite and must
eat pav bhaji the way it is to be eaten - lots of bhaji with every mouthful!
- Boil 4 big potatoes in cooker. A rice cooker should do, I think.
- While the potatoes are being nuked finely chop the following: 3-4 big
onions, 1 average-sized cauliflower, 1 capsicum (Shimla mirchi), 3 big
tomatoes. When I say chop I mean really go chop-chop on them, itsy-bitsy
pieces. Also, chop ginger into really fine, microscopic I mean, pieces.
- Take a big container - henceforth referred to as the "vessel".
Pre-heat it for 2 minutes or so (don't ask why - I happen to love these
complex procedures) and then dunk some oil into it - enough to cover the
bottom of the vessel. Wait till oil boils.
- Add garlic paste (1 teaspoonful) to the oil. Then throw in the ginger.
Add the ginger to taste. I recommend half an average-sized one. Throw the
onions in. Get your kicks watching them go poosshhh-poosshh.
- In the meanwhile the potatoes are probably done so summon a minion to
retrieve them from the cooker and peel them. Do all this when the potatoes
are hot else the peels won't come out well. While they are still hot, mash
them. Mash them, squash them, basically throttle whatever life they might
possess. The mash should be of fine consistency. This is essential to the
quality of the bhaji so this task should be left to a person who is
generally regarded as the pro when it comes to hashing things up.
- By this time the onions should be all transparent and getting browned.
Throw in a heaped teaspoon of salt and half-a-teaspoon of haldi. Fry the
onions some more.
- When you think the onions are having the time of their life, add the
tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes are all skwooshed [puchuk-puchuk,
shapeless types]. In fact, its a good idea to add the salt at this time.
- When the tomato-onion schmutz becomes all pasty, add the cauliflower.
Cause upheavals in the vessel with the spatula or spoon or whatever till
the paste is all spread over the cauli.
- Add a little water, half a cup at this time, so that the paste spreads
evenly. Add a heaped teaspoonful of chili powder and mix away. Add the
capsicum too. Cover the vessel to allow the cauli and the capsi to become softy.
- By this time the potato-masher should have done with flattening the
potatoes. Adding a little water (one palmful) should help mash the potatoes
better. At this time, it would be helpful to conjure up some peas and
microwave them for some time to make them amenable for further torture.
- After a decent time interval - enough to collect your wits for another
assault on the concoction, open the vessel and add copious quantities of
pav-bhaji masala. 3 heaped teaspoons should do fine. In case of doubt, add
less and then keep adding as time flies.
- At this critical juncture, toss in the mashed potatoes and the peas.
Also, let another cupful of water gush over it. Mix for your life. By this
time the mixture should look suspiciously like the real thing. Do not get
fooled. The real McCoy is a long way in coming. This is a nice time to add
more of the aforementioned spices if you want. Then, throw in another half
a cup of water and cover the vessel. Turn the gas to furnace levels. Regale
the audience with jokes about your other culinary adventures.
- Periodically, it is a good idea to create chaos in the vessel. The
water has to permeate every pore of the entities in the vessel. Feel free
to use the spoon to mash any stray chunks of veggies you notice lurking in
the inner depths of the bhaji.
- After some time the remaining liquid in the vessel will begin to boil
and bubble in protest. Suppress the desire to bring out your boiler suit
and from this point onwards boil the bhaji in an open vessel. Yes, this is
going to make a mess of the kitchen but hey, its worth the effort!
- Some time later you will notice that stirring the bhaji gives the
consistency the like of which were seen only on the stalls in Bombay. Stop
heating and grandly announce the end of the experiment. Chop some onions a
lemon and some kothmir leaves for dressing. Dressing the bhaji, I mean.
- I sometimes don't use pav because it is too much of a pain in the neck
to go searching for it. I use bread or burger buns instead. Heat pav in
butter in a pan and serve. Stand back and let the praise flow in.