What in the world is “Southern Pao Bhaji Casserole”, you say? Well, it just brings together two very popular dishes in two continents. Pao Bhaji is a humble Indian street food favorite, that originated as a light lunch for the mill workers in Bombay. Pao, from Portuguese, means bread, and bhaji from Marathi ( Bombay’s local language) means vegetables. Here’s an interesting video that shows how this dish is made at a street food vendor in Bombay.
Coming back to my dish then…I wanted to make elevate the humble pav bhaji for a dinner party I was having, and the theme of the menu I had decided on was global. Cornbread is the simplest and heartiest bread I know of, and the sweetness would go very well with the complex layers of the Indian bhaji, I thought. With that hunch,I went about making the dish. So here goes the recipe:
What you need
For the bhaji
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into small pieces
- 2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced
- 1 small golden potato, peeled and diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup of green peas
- 1 onion, grated
- 4 roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 tblsp of minced ginger
- 4- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tblsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp Asafetida
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tblsp kasuri methi ( dried fenugreek leaves)
- 2 tblsp Pav Bhaji masala
- 1/4 a jalapeño, minced
- Juice of a lime
- 2 tsp of chili powder or cayenne
- 1/2 a stick of butter
- 2 tblsp cooking oil
- salt and pepper
- Water as needed
For the cornmeal pao
- 1 1/2 cup of cornmeal
- 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of buttermilk
- 4 tblsp of olive oil or melted butter
- 3 tsp of baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp of salt
- 2 Tblsp of chopped cilantro
How Its Done
- Prep the vegetables- mincing, grating, dicing as needed. Don’t Bother separating the cauliflower florets;just cut them into small pieces. Remember, the bhaji is an amalgamation of all the veggies in a soft, mushy consistency
- Put the potatoes and cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 a cup of water and a pinch or so of salt and cook till the veggies are softened and can be mashed
- Heat o il in a pan
- Add the asafoetida, and let cook for a minute
- Add the grated onion and let brown
- Add the minced ginger and garlic, and cook till the raw smell goes away
- Add turmeric and coriander powder and let the spices become fragrant
- Add the bell peppers and let soften; about 7-10 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, stir, cover and let cook till the juices are released, then absorbed and the mixture starts to stick to the pan
- Add some water to prevent the sticking and mix
- Now add the mashed potato-cauliflower mix, and peas and mix and mash
- Add the pav bhaji masala, jalapeno, chile powder, salt and pepper to taste, mix and mash; add some more water if needed to continue the cooking, so all flavors meld together. About 10 more minutes
Now add the lime juice and half the butter. Mix and turn off heat. Bhaji is ready. You can make the bhaji ahead and also eat this with a toasted slice of bread, and stop right here. However, if you’re patient, and make the cornbread topping, you will be glad you did!
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- For the cornbread topping, whisk the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil, and incorporate into to dry ingredients, just enough that everything is well mixed. Add the cilantro and mix. Do not overwork this.
- Let the mix rest while you prepare the bhaji in an ovenproof dish. Butter the dish and spread the bhaji. Distribute the remaining butter on top of the bhaji.
- Now add dollops of the cornbread topping.
- Bake for 15 minutes or so till the bread is golden, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean
Enjoy! The sweet cornbread contrasts and balances the spicy bhaji to make one überly satisfying meal – a definite crowd-pleaser. I barely had any leftovers!
A quick weeknight meal, a take on popular street food from India. Chaat is a form of street food usually sold at road side stalls, and has found it’s way into restaurants as well due to its popularity. My favorite chaat dish is ‘Jhaal Muri’ which means Spicy (hot) Puffed Rice. My version has a lot more vegetables and legumes than the traditional one, so it makes for a hearty meal.
What You Need
How it’s done
Mince the jalapeño. Crumble the rice cakes. Defrost the frozen edamame and Soycutash. Mix everything together. Enjoy! The heat from the jalapeño gives this dish the “Jhaal”, the crunch from the rice cakes, the tang from the lime juice, help being all the flavors together.
I shared the Yogurt Stew recipe earlier- here’s the other component of the meal inspired by Niloufer Ichaporia King’s My Bombay Kitchen.
I had a little bit of a few vegetables in my fridge that I wanted to make into one dish, and was found the Parsi Claypot Recipe in the book. The recipe called for Dhansak Masala and Parsi sambhar masala, both of which I did not have. What I found interesting is that sambhar masala which sounds very much like the quintessential south indian spice mix, sambar powder, is quite different. For one, it has no coriander while sambar masala has lots of it; it has asafetida, which is excluded from sambar powder. I had on hand South Indian sambar powder and mahrashtrian goda masala, and combined they meet all the ingredients ( and a couple more) of the two masalas that The Parsi Claypot recipe called for. I am quite sure this dish can be made on the stovetop and can produce the same results, however, I did bake it per the original recipe.
What You Need
How It’s Done
1. Prep the vegetables by cutting them even sized, about an inch length each, mincing the green chillies
2. Put in a bowl and mix all the ingredients together, coating the vegetables with the spices, and set aside while the oven preheats(10 minutes)
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
4. Prep an oven safe pan with a bit of oil.
5. Spread the vegetables evenly in the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil
6. Bake for an hour till the runner beans are sepia in color- that’s when they are cooked.
The longer this dish stays, the more it absorbs the flavors. It’s a perfect side for chapati a and complemented my meal of kadhi chawal (Yogurt stew with rice).
We recently went to this mediterranean restaurant in Burlingame called Taste in Mediterranean, that has the best menu, especially if you’re a vegetarian. They have a range of vegetable stews that one usually doesn’t see on menus, and then there are the soups that are not on their menu as they change daily. One of them that inspired this post is the Yogurt Soup. I was very excited to try this soup as it reminded me of a few yogurt stews that are made in India- in the North, there are variations of Kadhi (Punjabi, Rajasthani, Gujarati and many more), and in the South there are Moru Kozhambu, Moru Kootan, Erissheri and many more, all use Yogurt or buttermilk as the base. The recipe I have today is inspired by Niloufer Ichaporia King’s My Bombay Kitchen. I was going for a Parsi lunch with mixed vegetables and Kadhi. The recipe has modifications as always
What You Need
How It’s Done
1. Prep the vegetables: mince the chillies and ginger; for mild heat, slit the chillies. dice the onion
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan
3. Add the cumin seeds and when that sizzles add the curry leaves, asafetida and turmeric. Asafetida and turmeric are staples in most regions of India, and are added for their medicinal qualities. Asafetida aids digestion and turmeric is a natural antiseptic.
4. As you smell the asafetida in the hot oil, add the onions and sauté till browned on the edges. I usually add a pinch of salt to help the process. Reduce heat to simmer
5. Whisk the gram flour in the water so there are no lumps. Add the ginger and chillies to this mixture.
6. Add the gram flour mixture to the onions and whisk. The heat will thicken the sauce so it’s important to keep whisking so its not lumpy. Cush the kasoori methi and add, mixing it all in.
7. Continue whisking as you add the yogurt or buttermilk. Heat through, being careful not to let the mixture boil, as the yogurt/ buttermilk can split. Remove from heat and mix in the line juice.
Serve as is or with rice. My Parsi meal had it with my version of Parsi claypot vegetables….coming soon!
A quick recipe that came out of not wanting to use coconut….because I didn’t have any.
What You Need
How its done
- Cook green garbanzo with a little water and salt in the microwave, ~ 5-7 minutes on high usually cooks it
- Chop the green onions and chillies; dice the tomatillos
- heat oil in a pan and add the green onions. Sauté a few minutes till the onion looses it raw flavor
- add the tomatillos and cook on high flame so they char a bit; add the chillies and cook till the tomatillos are lightly browned. Add the green garbanzo, salt and pepper
- Blend the mixture into a smooth paste, adding a little water.
- Chutney is ready! Serve with chips, carrot, upma or idli.