Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mushroom Paav Bhaaji

Paav Bhaaji is Mumbai's signature street food that's not only delicious and full of spicy flavours, it also is a complete meal by itself. The aromatic masalas and tanginess of amchoor powder(Dry Mango powder) blend well with the veggies and the melting butter to release divine flavours that makes the eater go into a heavenly trip to ecstasy! I haven't come across anyone so far who doesn't like this combo snack.
Back in Mumbai in the mid Seventies, there was a famous street cart eatery at Five Gardens in Matunga making one of the best paav bhaajis I've ever tasted in my life. It was my first experience in relishing that snack. My friends Dr Vishwanath Shenoy and his cousin Dr Ananth Shenoy took me there every evening during my two weeks stay in Mumbai and I had the privilege of eating paav bhaaji and quench my thirst with Lakhan's Kaala Khatta(Black Currant juice) garnished with black salt. Those were the days!

Later I went to Mumbai again in 1978 August and tried paav bhaaji in Mulund near the vegetable market. That was also fantastic. Not many restaurants or fast food joints in Mangaluru can make paav bhaaji like they make in Mumbai. Bengaluru comes second acccording to my experience and there I relished excellent paav bhaaji in a residential colony next to a school in Sheshadripuram. 

We have prepared regular paav bhaaji at home using many brands of masala powder but 'Everest' is the best as per my knowledge. It has the right amount of aromatic spices and chillies added in it. Fast food joints make this on a thick cast iron tawa while we use non-stick pans for convenience. The red garlic chutney they add in Mumbai is substituted with Kashmiri chilli powder and chopped garlic. 

Going one step higher, when Meena wanted to eat paav bhaaji the other day, I suggested that we can add chopped mushrooms and make it special. Along with other veggies and ingredients necessary to make this bhaaji, I also bought a packet of fresh button mushrooms.

There are a few finer details to observe while making the bhaaji:

1. Select veggies that are low in fiber and high in carbs and protein. Avoid adding capsicum and ginger paste which dominate the flavour and spoil the taste of the bhaaji.
2. Boil the veggies well, so that they can be mashed properly. Well mashed veggies blend well with the masalas and when you fry the bhaaji with butter before serving, that gives the right and smoothness to the gravy.
3. Serve the bhaaji straight from the pan to the plate to retain the flavours.
4. Chop the onions and tomatoes very fine, so that they blend well with the gravy.
5. Don't add too much masala or chilli powder. This bhaaji is meant to be slightly bland but full of melting butter.
6. Don't mash mushrooms. Just chop them fine, sauté with butter and then mix in the mashed bhaaji to get the taste right.

So here it is, the special Mushroom Paav Bhaaji, our last presentation for the year ending 2014. Happy cooking, happy dining, wishing you all a very happy year to come!
Paav Buns(preferably local non-sweet) - 12
Green Peas - 1/2 cup(50Gms)
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup(75 Gms)
Potato - 1 big(75Gms)
Garlic - 10-12 cloves
Onions - 2 medium(100 Gms)
Tomatoes - 3 medium(100Gms)
Fresh Button Mushrooms - 4-6(80 Gms)
Refined oil - 2 Tsp
Butter - 100 Gms or more
Salt - 1 Tsp(or to taste)
Paav Bhaaji Masala - 3 Tsp(or 1 tbsp)
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 1 Tsp
Coriander leaves - A handful
Lemon Wedges

Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
Peel and finely chop onions.
Wash and finely chop tomatoes.
Wash and finely chop the mushrooms.
Wash and finely chop the coriander leaves.
Slice each paav bun horizontally into two.
Wash the green peas and cauliflower, transfer to a bowl without water.
Wash the whole potato, keep in the pressure cooker with little water, keep the peas and cauliflower separately and pressure cook for 10 mins.
Remove from the cooker, peel the potato and chop finely.
heat oil in a thick bottomed pan.
Fry the chopped garlic till golden, followed by the chopped onions with little salt, till golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry till the rawness disappears.
Add the cooked peas, cauliflower and potatoes.
Add the masala powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and remaining salt.
Mash the mass using a ladle or a special implement as shown in the pictures.
Mix well, add 1/2 cup water and allow to cook on medium flame for 3 mins.
Collect the mass on the periphery of the pan, make some space in the center and melt 50 gms butter in the center.
Add chopped mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Mix in the mashed veggies already cooked with the masalas, allow to sizzle for another 2 minutes.
At this point, you can mix in little more butter, if you find the gravy too dry.
In the meanwhile, generously apply butter on both sides of the paav buns and roast them on another frying pan till lightly brown and the melting butter gets well absorbed into the slices.
Arrange two whole buns per plate.
Serve the bhaaji straight on each serving plate with a knob of butter, chopped onions, coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon.
This recipe is sufficient for a family of 4 with good appetite. Can be extended to 6 persons.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pikkale Kele Bajo/Podi(Banana Fritters)

In this cold and wicked winter, what better snack can keep you warm, energetic and happy? Pikkale Kele Podi/Bajo or Banana Fritters!
We GSBs settled down south in parts of Coastal Karnataka and Kerala adapted the local produce in our cooking and came out with wonderful delicacies. The North Indian style chickpea flour coated snack Bhujia/Bajji became Bajo and we also included ripe Nendra bananas that originated from Kerala and made fine Pikkale Kele Bajo which means ripe banana fritters. Nendra banana is mostly used for making chips and halwa, but we make a number of snacks, sweets, desserts and fritters also with it. Podi is a general term used for these fritters but in actual Konkani, 'podi' means a chunk or small piece of any veggie or fruit. One more ripe Banana podi we make is with rice flour coating. That one is made mostly during festive occasions or for death ceremony feasts.

Restaurants seldom make this kind of fritters. Rather they make ones with refined flour and rice flour batter as coating. They also slice the banana into long 'peshis'. Peshi in Konkani means long slice. I have tasted excellent banana fritters at Komal's Cream Parlour, Komal's Red Rose, Udupi Krishna Bhavan, Madhuvan and Mohini Vilas when I was young. Some of the Brahmin restaurants like Aradhana, Karthik, Vishwa Bhavan and Indra Bhavan also made them with perfection. One more restaurant to quote here is Naivedya in Hotel Panchami Bejai Mangalore, where I have tasted very good Baale Hannina Podi(Kannada)/Parnd Podi(Tulu) or Banana Fritters in the Nineties. I don't remember having tried GSB style Kele Bajo at Taj Mahal Cafe or Hotel Ayodhya. Most probably they had them on the menu.

This is fairly easy to make, but you should pick the bananas that are just ripe and not over ripe. The outer skin should be stiff and yellow in colour and inner flesh should be firm and pale pinkish orange in colour. Making the batter for outer coating is also an art. Right thickness and smoothness ensures perfectly crisp outer and soft inner after you fry the fritters. Oil used is essentially Coconut Oil but you can also use other refined oils. Be sure to heat the oil just enough and keep the gas at medium mark as the oil starts fuming.

Make them on these winter days and have them with a cup of hot coffee or tea. Heaven is just outside your window after relishing this!
Nendra Banana - 2 just ripe(Around 400Gms)
Chickpea Flour(Besan) - 1 cup
Rice Flour - 1/4 cup
Red Chilli Powder - 1 Tsp
Salt - To taste
Asafotoeda - A pinch dissolved in little water.

Water - QS
Black Sesame Seeds(Optional) - 1 Tsp
Coconut Oil - For deep frying

Mix in chickpea flour using just sufficient water, using your hand to make a thick batter of dropping consistency.
make sure the flour doesn't form lumps.
Add the rice flour, salt to taste, asafotoeda solution, sesame seeds and red chilli powder.
Beat well.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan till it starts fuming.
Reduce the flame to medium.
Peel the bananas and cut them into round discs, about 5 mm thick.
Dip the banana discs in the batter and fry as many as the oil can hold.
Fry well on both the sides, till the fritters are crisp and golden.
Transfer to absorbent paper and allow to cool down for 2-3 minutes.
Serve with coconut chutney or ketchup as a tea time snack. 
You can keep any excess chickpea flour batter in the fridge and use it within two days.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Batate Vaagu(Special Potato Song)

Song(Saung) is a typical GSB curry made with mainly potatoes, onions and sometimes added tomatoes green peas or even tender cashew nuts. It can be made with added grated coconut, ground coconut masala or just with tamarind extract and chilli powder. Vaagu is a type of song made with coconut masala. This is especially prepared as a delicacy at wedding or similar feasts. In Konkani 'Vaagu' means tiger. This dish is fiery hot and tangy as per tradition but now a days we make it spicy, tangy and sweet.
As far as my memory goes, my mother seldom made this vaagu. I first tasted it at Taj Mahal cafe in Car Street where this curry named 'Special Song' is with chapathis, Thuppa Dosa, Khaali Dosa or Theek Rotti. Taj Mahal still makes this dish and is the best I have tasted anywhere in a restaurant! I've also tasted fantastic vaagu prepared by my ex-colleague Bantwal Gopalkrishna Pai's wife, and at a function where a cook par excellence from Bantwal by name Nagesh made this as side dish along with rice shevain or string hoppers.

Essential ingredients of vaagu are boiled peeled and cubed potatoes, chopped onions, tomatoes, grated coconut, fried red chillies, salt, tamarind, roasted coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder and a seasoning in coconut oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves, optional urad daal. You may add a piece of jaggery to highlight other tastes and also garnish with chopped coriander leaves for that special flavour. We just did that to make this delectable and close enough to how they make special song at Taj mahal Cafe.

It is fairly easy to make this, but keep in mind that this is a special dish. So, wee bit more oil goes into it.
Baby Onions 
Potatoes - 2 medium(125Gms), boiled peeled and cubed into 1/2" pieces
Onions(Preferably baby onions) - 200Gms cut into big chunks
Tomatoes - 1 big(75Gms) chopped into big pieces
Grated Coconut - 1/2 cup
Red short chillies - 4-6
Red long chillies(Byadgi) - 4
Coriander Seeds - 1 Tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/8 Tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Tamarind - Cherry size ball
Jaggery - A small piece(about 10Gms)
Salt - To taste
Coriander leaves - A handful chopped
Coconut oil - 4 Tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad Daal - 1 Tsp(Optional)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

Roast red chillies, coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds with few drops of oil till crisp.
Grind along with grated coconut, turmeric powder, jaggery and tamarind to a fine paste.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan or kadai.
Prepare seasoning with mustard seeds, optional urad daal and curry leaves.
Add chopped onions and fry on high flame till transparent and golden.
Add chopped tomatoes and the ground masala.
Fry well till oil leaves the sides.
Add 1/2 cup water and salt to taste.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 10 mins.
Once the onions are slightly tender, add the  boiled cubed potatoes and mix.
Cook for another 5 mins when the gravy thickens.
Switch off the flame and garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves.
Serve hot with rice and daalithove, chapathis, pooris, idlis, string hoppers or with dosas. 
If you're serving this with chapathis or other items, make the gravy slightly thin. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Blueberry Muffin(Cake)

Ending this year's Christmas Bonanza with this cake. We do hope our readers liked the other presentations as well.
"Wishing you all Season's Greetings and a Very Happy New Year 2015"

This recipe has been featured on the TV show Zee Khanakhazana.
Ever since Meena started baking cakes, she's been mostly following known few recipes that she had noted down in her recipe book. Of course, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor who inspired us both to cook wonderful dishes over a period of time, is our most favourite Indian Chef on TV. Meena watches his Khaana Kazana program regularly and she saw this one some months ago. She jotted down the recipe quickly and made it. I didn't know the name nor did I see what's the recipe. All I know is taking the pictures and whacking two slices of the cake during the session and convincing her that the log shrunk due to sudden change in weather!

She made this not in muffin cups but like a bread loaf. She also didn't have Blueberry Jam, so she added mixed fruit jam. It tasted very good. Try this, and you'll also like it.
Blueberry jam(or any other good flavour) - 4 tablespoons
Refined flour (maida) - 1 & 1/2 cups
Eggs - 2 
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Vanilla essence - 1 teaspoon
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Baking powder - 2 teaspoons
Butter - 4 tablespoons
Milk - 3/4 cup
Lemon rind - 1 teaspoon

Preheat oven to 180º C. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk adding sugar till light and frothy. 
Add vanilla essence and mix.
Sift refined flour, salt and baking powder into another bowl. 
Melt butter. 
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix gently. 
Add melted butter and mix. 
Add milk and mix. Add lemon rind and mix. 
Add blueberry jam and mix lightly.
Pour the batter into the muffin moulds and bake in the preheated oven for ten to fifteen minutes or till they rise properly.
Remove them from the moulds when slightly cool and serve warm. 
Recipe Courtesy:


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