Imagine if you will……..deafening noise from auto-rickshaws, cars, bus and the numerous two wheelers, chaos everywhere with no one, I mean no one following traffic rules !! In the midst of this cacophony of noise, a myriad vibrant colours can be seen everywhere you turn, different dialects and languages spoken everywhere…….and people everywhere you turn !! I mean , teeming with people….millions of them , India is the most populous nation in the world !!! Topping the fact that there is diverse culture to experience at every corner…. is the fact that it is a foodie paradise, especially for street eats !!!! At any point of time, you will find masses of them eating fast food at roadside stalls, even at midnight !! Some say that cities like Mumbai rivals New York for nighttime ambience !!!
Every lane has food vendors selling their wares……if however you are one of those people who like their food served by people wearing gloves, you probably shouldn’t try anything !!!You can find vendors serving chaat, pav bhaji, dosas and Chinese food …..all right next to each other. The aromas and the sight of all those appealing dishes makes your mouth salivate !!To me ……it is almost a religious pilgrimage that I take every time I go to India !!!!!
Pav Bhaji is one of those dishes that I eat every time . Pav bhaji essentially means “ bread and vegetables “. Its a fast food that was first sold at roadside stalls in Mumbai. It started out as fast food sold to factory workers that was not as heavy as rice but still filling !!! Piping hot buttered rolls served with spicy mashed veggies, resembling a chilli……sounds like bliss , doesn’t it ??? The cook, usually called Bhaiyya ( brother ), stands in front of a huge cast iron pan, surrounded by bowls of different veggies, spices and an alarming amount of butter !!! Tak, tak ,tak ……..thats the sound you hear when he mixes the veggies and spices into cooked potatoes, along with dollops with butter. He then serves it with toasted buns….sort of like dinner rolls, garnished with raw chopped onions and lemon wedges. It is “ heaven on a plate “ !!!
Back here, everywhere I go, there are pumpkins and squashes now. So many colours , so many shapes……..they are very pretty to look at !!! Every store or restaurant is now offering up pumpkin and squash specials. Some are the usual suspects but many are different and unique. I love butternut squash and I was excited to see what I could come up with !!! I lucked out when the farmstand near my house started sellig fresh from the garden butternut squash !! I thought long and hard about what all I could make …….more importantly what my family would eat !!! One evening, I had decided to make pav bhaji for dinner and that’s when the thought occurred to me…..how about a BUTTERNUT SQUASH PAV BHAJI !!! I made it up as I went along and I have to say that I love the results !!! I substituted ¾Th. of the potatoes used in pav bhaji with roasted and mashed butternut squash. Other than that I followed the usual recipe……simple isn’t it ???
Now, I really did not use all that butter…….for one, V does not like butter and two, I just…..didn’t !!! I make my own spice mix but you can use store bought pav bhaji masala if that is more convenient !!I prefer the Everest brand. I have included the spice mix if you just want it . The spice mix is very easy to make too, if you cook with spices…….. you have all of them at home ! I substituted a quantity of the potatoes and cauliflower with roasted butternut squash. The result is a stew/chilli/ mash that is slight sweet, definitely spicy , tangy and all kinds of delicious !!!! Sop it up with toasted rolls, crispy yet soft . Now you know why I called it a religious experience !!!
In the US, squashes ,known as pumpkin in most of Asia, Africa and Australia, are divided into either summer squashes or winter squashes. Summer squashes are zucchini ( courgettes), pattypans or crooknecks…..they are generally small with thins skins and as the name suggests harvested in summer. They are eaten immediately after harvest and require very little cooking. Winter squashes, which include butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash ….also pumpkin , on the other hand are harvested later upon reaching maturity generally during fall. They are larger with thicker skins and require a little more cooking . The flower of the plant….squash blossom is also very popular. Another interesting fact……the vegetable known as white pumpkin or ash gourd in Asia is actually a fruit and is a winter melon !!!!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PAV BHAJI
1 small Butternut Squash ( 1 ½ lb. – 2 lb.s )
2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
½ cup Green Bell Peppers, minced
¼ cup Carrots, peeled and diced
2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Ginger- Garlic paste
2 tsp minced Green Chillies
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Red Chilli Pwd
1 tbsp Pav Bhaji Masala
2 cups Tomato Puree
Salt to taste
¼ cup Green Peas ( frozen or fresh )
1 tbsp Butter
¼ cup finely chopped Onions
¼ cup finely chopped Cilantro
1 Lemon/ Lime cut into wedges
8-10 Dinner Rolls/ Laddi Pav
Pre heat the oven to 425 F. Cut the butternut squash in half. Remove the seeds and membranes.
Lightly oil the halves.Place skin side up on a foil lined tray that has been lightly greased.
Once tender, peel the skin and lightly mash the butternut squash.
Cook the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots till tender. I usually do this in a pressure cooker.
Sauté the green chillies, ginger-garlic paste and minced bell peppers in oil, till it softens.
Add the turmeric, chilli pwd and salt. Sauté for another minute.
Now add the tomato puree, peas, cooked veggies, squash puree and pav bhaji masala.
Keep sautéing and mashing it together till it forms a smooth mixture . Use water as required.
The mixture will spurt so partially cover a lid when not mixing. Cook on medium low heat for 20-25 minutes so that the flavours can meld together.
Melt the butter in a pan, and brown the rolls till golden brown on both sides.
Serve alongside the bhaji . Garnish with chopped onion & cilantro. Serve with a lemon/lime wedge.
As I said earlier I make my own Pav Bhaji Masala……. just grind the following spices in a coffee grinder till the texture resembles finely ground black pepper. You can store the excess in a sealed container, away from light, heat and humidity for up to 2 months…….1/2 tbsp coriander seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp black peppercorns, ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds, ¼ tsp anise seeds, seeds from 3-4 cardamom pods, 3 cloves, 1 tbsp cayenne, ½ tbsp mango pwd ( amchur ), 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp black salt, ¼ tsp grated nutmeg.