I think have discovered my new favourite comfort food. Spicy, warm and full of flavour, pav bhaji is the perfect dish for the cooler months ahead.
Literally meaning “bread and mixed vegetables”, pav bhaji is a thick, mashed vegetable curry served with grilled, buttered buns instead of the usual rice.
The dish is a popular street food in India and when I first heard of it, I likened it to an Indian version of the sloppy joe. However, made with a whole load of mixed veggies, it’s a fair bit healthier than the American fast food.
Pav bhaji is a tomato-based curry, made with warm spices and vegetables that are boiled and mashed into a thick but slightly chunky mix. Traditionally, the curry is garnished with red onions, coriander, lemon juice and a dollop of butter on top. It’s served with fluffy, buttered buns (the pav) on the side so you can eat it with your fingers. Messy but delicious!
The dish is super-easy to veganise; you just have to swap out the butter for a vegan spread and make sure your buns are vegan-friendly. Voila!
The exact spice blend tends to vary a bit but contains warm flavours like cloves, cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and black pepper.
I was kindly sent a jar of Spicica Pav Bhaji Masala to try out*. Their curry powders use blends of traditional spices and contemporary flavours, that really pack a punch.
The Pav Bhaji Masala by Spicica is made with their in-house recipe and it smells phenomenal. It has all the above mentioned spices as well as others like asafoetida, cassia, star anise, and dry mango powder.
Using a spice mix like this is a great way to get the perfect blend of flavours in your curry and be able to control the level of heat. I like my curries spicy but you could easily use less curry powder to tone it down for kids or those who prefer a milder dish.
The curry itself super quick and easy to make. Here’s my take on the Indian favourite:
Vegan Pav Bhaji Masala
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and roughly diced
1 medium courgette, peeled and diced
1 large aubergine, peeled and diced
1/2 large cauliflower, cut into florets
1-2 tbsp olive oil (or cooking oil of choice)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
6 large tomatoes, diced
2-3 tbsp Pav Bhaji Masala
2 tsp salt
1 fresh lemon, cut into wedges
1/4 bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Soft white dinner rolls or burger buns
Vegan butter or margarine
Boil all vegetables and drain. Mash vegetables together with potato masher, until larger chunks are gone but mixture is not completely smooth.
In large pan, heat oil on high heat. Fry yellow onion until it starts turning translucent. Add ginger, garlic, and half the chopped tomatoes, stirring constantly until tomatoes start to soften. Add remaining tomatoes, pav bhaji mix and salt, stirring until all vegetables are coated evenly.
Reduce heat to med-low and add mashed vegetables to pan, stirring well. Cook covered for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally and adding splashes of water if needed. (The consistency should be that of a thick vegetable curry. Cook for a few extra minutes if needed to burn off excess liquid.) Remove from heat.
Top with garnishes and serve with toasted, buttered buns on the side.
*Disclaimer: I was gifted a jar of Spicica Pav Bhaji Masala but opinions and recipe are my own.