Monday, June 25, 2012

Daily Special: Punjabi Bhaaji

When my mother stayed with us last year when Lila was a newborn, she often made something that she termed "Punjabi bhaaji"- a most enjoyable medley of paneer cubes and mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce. Far from being anything with an actual Punjabi pedigree, this dish is simply a Maharashtrian home cook's homage to vegetables cooked in the style of popular Punjabi restaurants everywhere. 

Since then, I make my own version of Punjabi bhaaji almost every other week. This dish takes as much (which is to say, as little) time to make as any other quick vegetable stir fry. However, it feels like such a change from everyday meals, so much like take-out from your favorite Indian restaurants, and that's why I am calling this a "daily special". Unlike restaurants where they have to keep an eye on the bottom line and be sparing with the vegetables, making this dish at home allows you to splurge and add lots of juicy seasonal vegetables. This recipe is simple enough for anyone to make, so if you are new to Indian cooking or new to the kitchen altogether, I hope you'll give it a try. 


Simple Punjabi-Style Bhaaji (Subzi)


  1. Cut half a block of paneer (8 oz or 200 grams) into bite size chunks.
  2. Cut vegetables into chunky bite size pieces for a total of 6 cups or so: cauliflower, green beans, carrot, bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, peas. 
  3. Cut 1 onion into medium dice.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a pan and fry the paneer until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add 1 tsp. cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
  6. Add the chopped onion and let it cook on medium-high heat until the edges start browning.
  7. Stir in the spices: 2 tsp. kasuri methi (dried fenugreek), 1/2 tsp. red chili powder and 1/2 tsp. turmeric.
  8. Add the vegetables and stir fry them for a few minutes.
  9. Add 1 cup tomato puree and salt to taste. Cook uncovered, stirring once in a while, until the vegetables are just tender. Add the fried paneer cubes. Turn off the heat.
  10. Stir in a handful of minced cilantro and 1/2 tsp. garam masala.

This basic recipe can be modified in a few different ways with great results:

1. The Julienne Version: By simply changing the way you cut the vegetables, you can alter the taste quite a bit. The version I've given above calls for fat chunks of vegetables. Another way I make it is with long, thin strips of vegetables. In this version, I grate the paneer coarsely instead of cutting it into chunks, and add the raw paneer into Step 9.
2. Vegetables Only: The paneer is optional. You can certainly make the dish with vegetables alone.
3. The Curry Variation: To make a thick luscious curry, powder 1 tbsp. white poppy seeds with 1/4 cup roasted cashews and add this powder into Step 7. You will want to add some extra water in Step 9 and simmer the curry for a few minutes.
4. Sweet Sensation: If the tomatoes are a bit tangy, smooth out the taste by adding a dash of sugar in Step 9.
5. Flavor Max: Add 2 tsp. ginger garlic paste (or 1 tsp. each of minced ginger and garlic) to Step 7.
  
This was our lunch this Saturday in between looking at real estate websites and playing with the baby on the rug. I buy whole wheat tortillas and use them as rotis. With a little imagination, whole wheat tortillas heated on a naked gas flame (resulting in a few charred spots) can taste just like rotis right out of a dhaba's tandoor. Just close your eyes and savor the taste! 

54 comments:

  1. Ditto on whole wheat tortillas! A little secret - Whole wheat tortillas from Whole Foods (their own brand named 365) taste exactly like polis when heated on a tawa. They come in a violet/purple packet. But I don't even bother to make a trip WF just for that - Trader Joe's or any other store wheat tortillas are absolutely fine by me. Your Punjabi bhaji sounds like an easy-to-make crowd pleaser. Good potluck material. I think I'll make this for a gathering next weekend!

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    1. I've been using Trader Joe's whole wheat tortillas all along but very glad to know that the WF brand is good as well! Yes, this bhaaji is excellent potluck material. Everyone who has tasted it loves it. Let me know if your friends like it :)

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  2. This is so much like Veg. Jalfrezi. Isn't it??

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    1. It is so much like most dishes in generic Indian restaurants!!!

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  3. I make something very similar to this off and on. An important distinction in your recipe is the Kasuri Methi - I am sure that elevates the bhaaji to a whole different level. I'll have to add this mix of ingredients to my weekly repertoire.

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    1. Mithila- I highly recommend the kasuri methi. It absolutely gives that delicious "restaurant taste" to the bhaaji. I learned about kasuri methi from food blogs a few years ago and it completely changed the way I make a few dishes. Try it!

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  4. Oh I just LOVE this bhaaji. My mom makes almost identical bhaaji and she calls it "Paratha Bhaaji" :D I guess she calls it that because she always made layered plain parathas to go with this bhaaji. I saute onions and make onion-tomato paste, which is the gravy part. I also add potatoes that are fried in little bit of oil. I had made it once for a potluck and everyone just loved it.

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    1. Paratha bhaaji is an excellent name for this dish!! It does go so well with garam-garam parathas. The onion-tomato gravy is a great touch. I have never used potatoes in here though.

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  5. This is the easiest recipe ever. We call it "mixed bhaji" at home and I've only recently begun to make it without paneer. I also once made it without garam masala and the natural taste of the veggies really shone through without the extra spice. Either way, it is a regular feature on our dining table.

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    1. I agree, it will be delicious with or without garam masala. The thing is I adore the garam masala I'm using right now (made by the lady who cooks at my parents' home) and I can't resist adding it wherever possible.

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  6. Kasuri methi always takes the dish to another level ! I like the variation you have mentioned...Nice option for a different taste in the regular routine food..

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    1. Hi Arch! Yes, whenever I make this dish it always feels like a special meal although it is not very different from the usual roti-subzi fare.

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  7. Love whole wheat tortillas on lazy days :) !! I'm gonna sub the paneer for tofu and try it soon!! Hugs to you & V & L!!

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    1. You'll have to tell me how you like it with tofu! Hugs to you all too. Come visit us this summer!

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  8. Simple, yet delicious bhaaji.
    Good luck with house hunting and the move..

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  9. i love making mixed vegetables. they add so much colour and texture. I make something similar and call it my version of jalfrezi!

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    1. Yes, the burst of color is my favorite thing about making mixed vegetables. We eat with our eyes first :)

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  10. So tempting and droolworthy dish, simply inviting.

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  11. What a lovely and simple preparation to enjoy seasonal veggies...I am so going to make this! Thanks Nupur. One of my most favorite things to do is making chapatis :D I know it sounds weird! but the whole process made from scratch comforts me like baking bread does to many people. I wake up early to have enough time to do this favorite activity every morning before I leave for work. It wakes me up and brings me lot of joy.

    If you like whole masoor dal (the brown lentil) then I highly recommend the unbelievably simple yet delicious recipe on 'Bajias cooking' channel on youtube. Most of her recipies are not vegetarian but this one is and its one of our favorites. Its surprising that a 'add everything and pressure cook oil free' dal can taste so good! The tadka given on top takes it to a whole new level, please dont skip it. :) I use very less oil than she does but still it taste so good. I would suggest you make very less first time to see if it suits ur taste.

    Best wishes to both of you for your home search, I really liked looking at redfin when we were searching a year back. Love to Lila and Dale.

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- I can completely see how making chapatis would be meditative and relaxing! I'll have to look up that masoor dal recipe- it sounds so good.
      Redfin does not cover all areas. They don't cover the town we are moving to. But it is a nice resource for sure!

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  12. Nupur, it is nice to have a quick and easy bhaji for the weeknights when time is a premium. I love the looks of this one. With paneer the kids will be oh so happy.

    I was browsing when I chanced on this article and thought of you.
    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/olympics-fourth-place-medal/knitting-community-outraged-over-olympic-dig-usoc-apologizes-211254677--oly.html

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    1. Oh yes, that Olympics saga! The sad thing is that the event Ravelmpics (where crafters do their knitting/crochet while enjoying the Olympics on TV) was benefiting the USOC financially and no one else.

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  13. Amen to shortcuts!I have to try the kasuri methi--I usually just add pav bhaji masala to these tomat-ey dishes. And I use whole wheat pitas--they freeze really well, so I always have them handy.

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    1. Pav bhaji masala is a short-cut I often use, especially to make a masala fried rice with leftover cooked rice. But kasuri methi takes this to another level and is well worth a try!
      Whole wheat pitas would make a lovely stand-in for naan. The tortillas I use freeze well too (one more reason I love them).

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  14. Nice sabzi Nupur. I do make this in a similar way except i add kitchen king masala.Tastes awesome. I will try with kasuri methi now..

    Thanks
    Suparna

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    1. Ooh, Kitchen King masala is one of my favorites too, for quick and tasty dishes!

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  15. This recipe is a perfect way to use left over vegetables in the fridge. We usually make similar sabzi or mix veg omelet with pay bhaji masala. Great way to clean up the fridge for the next round of groceries.

    The picture looks mouth watering.

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    1. Suchi- that's very true, this is a great fridge-cleaning recipe. The mixed veg omelet sounds delicious.

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  16. So delicious! I tend to make this every weekend, since it's the perfect way of using up bits and pieces of veggies.

    On a side note, I followed your recipe and made Mesir Wat and fell in love with it :) I'll be making it a million times now.

    Preeti

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    1. Preeti- So glad the mesir wat recipe worked for you. I had forgotten I posted that!!

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  17. Had this at a friends place,looks yum,,,thanks for the recipe,.

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  18. Nupur, I LOVE any and all Paneer curry dishes. SOO delicious!

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  19. This is a great recipe. My mom makes a variation of this bhaaji to add some pizzazz to the plate when we have guests over. Try adding a little bit of paav-bhaji masala along with garam masala. Tastes yummy =D

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  20. I am so glad you posted Lila's picture. Love to see those big round eyes. Lil A is enjoying his mangoes this year! We make this kind of bhaji at home as well. Love the colors in yours.

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  21. Love this curry.Got a little homemade panner and a few veggies that can't be used on their own.All that is going into the kadai tomorrow .The click looks delicious :)

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  22. Nupur - this is my bhaji of choice to serve with stale polya! As my mother used to say - "polys shilya asatil tar bhaji chamchamit karavi".

    Try Trulia if it covers where you are going

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  23. Looks yummy and easy. I have an abundance of tomatoes in my garden right now so, glad to see a recipe with tomato puree. I came across this downloadable of kid books and knew you'd definitely appreciate it: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/121-books/
    I have already requested a few at our library for my 3-year old.
    The site itself is one I very much like too.
    Hope you move prep is going well.

    -Anu

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  24. Nice recipe .. would like to try it soon. I generally don't use tomato puree in my cooking , so wasn't sure if you are mentioning the store bought tomato paste or home made puree. If it's homemade do we need to blanch tomatoes first? Would the taste differ a lot? Thanks in advance!
    -Jeena

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    1. You could use homemade puree or store bought- whatever is more convenient for you. I buy whole canned tomatoes and puree them. The taste would not differ a lot no matter what kind of tomatoes you use. You could even just use fresh ripe tomatoes (chopped) if they are in season where you live.

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  25. I made this recipe last night, and it was so tasty! Thanks for an easy and delicious recipe. I made some slight variations, tho. I used a wee bit of Kitchen King and used Baby corn and a small potato instead of mushrooms. I pressure cooked the veggies for up to 1 whistle, and yes, I added about 1.2 c of water to make it saucy for us. In all, a lovely recipe. This will be a keeper!
    Anu

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    1. Your version sounds wonderful! Pressure cooking will only make this an even faster recipe.

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  26. Tried this recipe last night and turned out great! It was so quick too... that is exactly what I need. I am a working mom and time is precious.
    Thank you! Looking forward to more posts from you.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! I am delighted the recipe worked for you!

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  27. this sounds great - we don't have enough Indian meals lately - but you seem to have hit upon a great way of having it regularly - and I love a recipe with variations that show just how familiar you are with it - good luck with the real estate

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    1. Yes, after making this a 100 times I have all kinds of variations and they all taste equally good to me :)

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  28. melody of veggies :-) the pics looks beautiful..

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  29. Yum..I made this few days back and it tasted delicious..Thanks Nupur!

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  30. I can almost taste this here. I make something similar with Kitchen King Masala. :-)

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    1. Oh yes, KK masala also adds that punch!

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  31. Looks yummy and easy. Thanks for the recipe.

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