Today’s post was going to be something sweet, something deviously sweet. But after the Valentines post I thought it would be really wrong to post another dessert recipe. Sinfully wrong. So you get pau bhaji. Sorry. Okay I’m not sorry, I love pau bhaji; it’s a classic and a favourite at special occasions.
Like raghda patties, pau bhaji is a popular street dish from Maharashtra (those Maharashtrians really know how to rock snack food, huh?) Pau bhaji literally means bread curry. Before you start gagging, it’s not a curry made out of bread; it’s pretty much a spiced vegetable stew served with bread rolls. Hearty fare indeed. I once read somewhere that the longer you cook your bhaji, the better it tastes. I bet that’s true. But sadly I don’t have all the time in the world to stand at the cooker, stirring my bhaji. I adore pau bhaji with plenty of butter, but my thighs seem to disagree. I add only a little butter during cooking (and a little to serve) in order to save around three hours playing the Hula Hoop game on the Wii Fit Plus to burn all of those pesky calories off. I’ve made my own pau (bread) for the benefit of
greed you wonderful readers. If you haven’t got the time to make your own bread then just buy ready made (there’s really no problem with shop-bought buns), just remember to toast them a little before serving.
Recently I’ve become really wary about ordering pau bhaji from restaurants. The last couple of times I’ve ordered it it’s been really bland and tasteless. The religion of ‘pau bhajists’ (followed by pau bhaji loonies such as myself) states that the bhaji should be the antithesis of ordinary when it comes to flavour. For this reason I’ve added lots of spice (please don’t faint when you see my ingredients list- it’s all really worth it. If you don’t have some of the spices it’s fine- just leave them out). Please enjoy this pau bhaji recipe with your family and friends (over and over again). Just don’t forget the butter! Unless you have high blood pressure. Then just forget the butter.
Ingredients for the Bhaji
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup of minced onions
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
2-3 medium hot chillies (I like to use medium hot chillies in order to deliver a piquant flavour without a ‘you just got slapped in the face’ chilli kick
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsps cumin seeds
¼ tsp asafoetida
2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
½ tsp turmeric
1 ½ cups parboiled and cubed potatoes
2 ½ cups half-cooked (I microwaved) mixed vegetables (I used cauliflower, peas and carrots but sweetcorn, broccoli, green beans etc would also be perfect!)
400g chickpeas, pureed (for a little protein and binding)
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
2 tbsps lemon juice
2-2 ½ cups water
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 ¼ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp fennel powder
¼ cinnamon powder
¼ tsp star anise powder
1. Heat the oil in a large, wide pan and gently fry the onions until they’re translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, chillies, mustard seeds (wait for them to pop), cumin seeds, asafoetida and tomato puree. Cook on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add the mixed vegetables and cook for 10 minutes with around a cup of water. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender and pulse three or four times until roughly pureed.
3. Return to the heat and add 1-1 ½ cups of water, the potatoes and chickpea puree and season with salt, sugar and lemon juice. Simmer until most of the water has evaporated and the bhaji has thickened.
4. Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala, fennel powder, cinnamon powder, star anise powder and butter. Cook for a further 5 minutes and remove from the heat.
Ingredients for the Garlic and Cumin Pau
500g strong bread flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 packet of easy blend yeast
260-300ml lukewarm water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp cumin, toasted in a dry pan until fragrant (this only takes around 30 seconds so watch them constantly or they will catch and burn)
1. Sift together the flour and salt and add the yeast, garlic and toasted cumin. Combine and make a well in the centre of the flour.
2. Gradually add the water and combine the mixture with a spoon until you’re able to knead it.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a full 10 minutes.
4. Divide the dough into 90g pieces and roll into balls. Place these on a lined baking tray and keep in a warm place for 15 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. After fifteen minutes transfer the risen dough balls into the oven for around 15-20 minutes until golden.
If you have any leftovers you can…
1. Make a pau-bhaji toastie! Kids will love this; a toasted sandwich with bhaji filling, a little cheese, some onions. Perfect for lunch!
2. Make samosas! Or little puff pastry canapés.
3. Use your bhaji as a nacho topper with cheese, guacamole, onions, sour cream and jalapenos.