Sunday, January 25, 2009

Street grub 101 - Mumbai pav bhaji

I know, I know, I was supposed to be writing up some recipes using that wonderful POM juice, but one of them requires Prosecco and I keep forgetting to replenish my stock so please bear with me while I tempt you with a bit of the ultimate street food of Bombay - pav bhaji and we will get to the POM soon enough.

I'm originally from Mumbai (Bombay) in another life, so I can safely say that in my mind at least, it is not what I think of when i think of the exotic east, spice markets and magic. Morocco and Fez in particular, represent these things to me... however, Mumbai has it's own sort of 'filmi' allure shall we say. When I say 'filmi' I am referring to the Indian commercial film industry, otherwise more famously known as 'Bollywood'.

With all the recent frenzied interest stirred into mainstream America movie-going by Slumdog Millionaire, what dish could be more representative than pav bhaji? It is a culmination of sorts of things that would otherwise be disposed of. Think vegetables at the end of their life, wilted, speckled with bits of black, softened and ready to be thrown out. This is exactly what the pav bhaji vendors do... go around buying up all the leftover, ready to be thrown away veggies to create a delectable masterpiece.

You will find this recipe comes together easily and with little fuss. What you will need is the veggies in the photo as well as some peas, garlic, a small can of crushed tomatoes and some spices - powdered and whole. Oh, and if you have a pressure cooker - wonderful... this will make it come together painlessly. Using the same amount of vegetables as in the photo will yield 6 servings.

It may seem like a lot of steps, but it is fast. What you will need to do is:
  • peel and chop the potatoes and drop in the pressure cooker.
  • chop the eggplant, carrots, bell pepper and cauliflower and place in the cooker
  • add a cup or two of water, some salt and turn on the pressure cooker for 20 min or 4 whistles until vegetables are cooked through
  • when the pressure cooker has cooled, drain a bit of the water and mash vegetables to a pulp

While the cooker is going:

  • in a large deep pot, heat 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil
  • add a cinnamon stick, 8 cloves, 1 bay leaf and 4 dried red chillies
  • add chopped onion, garlic and salt and cook until onion is softened about 6 minutes
  • add 2 teaspoons of pav bhaji masala, 1 teaspoon of garam masala and 1 teaspoon red chilli powder and stir until spices are incorporated about another 2 minutes
  • add chopped tomatoes and cook until softened about another 7 minutes
  • add the can of crushed tomatoes, the mashed vegetables, a cup of peas and salt
  • cook on low, covered and stirring every few minutes for 15 minutes to fuse it all together
  • when it is done, squeeze some lime juice into it and garnish with cilantro
  • serve with crusty bread, onion and more lime