Pav Bhaji – A Blog in Two Parts – Pt 1

pav #8 For anyone that has spent more than a few days in Bombay there is one street food that seems synonymous with this city and that is Pav Bhaji. Rick Stein described it as like Indian bubble and squeak and he’s pretty close to the mark, think fried vegetables and potatoes but with heaps of ghee (instead of lard or bacon fat like my Nan’s bubble and squeak) and a decent amount of masala spicing and green chili.

If this sounds good, it is, even though its mildly addictive and pretty much a spicy heart attack in waiting. Served in what Mumbaikars call a “Pav” or “Pao” (pronounced POW) which is basically a sweet bread roll, and for a little extra fat they generally butter them and toast them on a griddle…. Insane!

While next week’s post will deal with the spicy vegetable curry or bhaji , today’s installment is about the unique bread that is Pav or Pao. Introduced by Portuguese settlers this type of bread survived both British rule and partition and is today pretty much regarded as the daily bread of Mumbai. In fact locals swear that Pav’s are not the same anywhere outside their city, even in neighboring Goa which has even stronger Portuguese ties.

“Pav’s” are quite unlike normal bread rolls, they are slightly sweet like hamburger buns but also slightly salty. As for shape and size, they are smaller and taller than baps or burger buns, more like a hot cross bun. One big difference is a deep golden glossy top that makes them look like brioche and they even have a buttery smell. (See the image at top)

Coming home with a longing for a Pao Bhaji fix , despite the filling not posing any problems, try as I might, I couldn’t find anything close for my Pav. Some local bread rolls were approximately the same shape and size but lacked the flavor, glossy top and buttery aroma, while others were just over sweet and artificial. In the end I ended up making them myself using the following really simple recipe and as an added bonus, not only are they great for their traditional use but they also make outstanding soft dinner or breakfast rolls, I hope you enjoy them.

Bombay Style Pao (aka Pav)

500g                       plain flour
300ml                    water – luke warm
15g                          dry yeast
30g                         sugar
30g                         butter
1 teaspoon             salt
1                              egg – beaten for glazing rolls

 

ferment Sift flour, then prepare a starter “sponge” by mixing a quarter of the flour with the sugar and yeast, stir in the water to form a smooth light batter, cover and leave to ferment until foaming and frothy. before mixing To this “sponge” add the remaining flour, salt and butter and knead well until silky smooth, soft and elastic. basic dough Cover and allow to double, punch down and divide into 12 equal portions and shape into small rolls. portioned doughGrease baking dish and place rolls in dish leaving about 1cm all around edges and between rolls to allow for expansion shaped Pav's Cover and allow to double again, brush with beaten egg and bake in an oven preheated to 220C for 10-12 minutes. Bombay Style Pav's Remove when golden on top and bottom and place on a cooling rack. Eat toasted or with butter.

In Praise of a “Milky Mojito”

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With the mercury set to top 37C in the Barossa this weekend I am going to want something long and cool to drink and following our cooking class today “A Provencal Lunch” I couldn’t help but think of my favourite tipples from that part of the world, Pernod and Pastis.

I have been a life long fan of these (well since I started in the kitchen at 16 at least). My introduction came literally days into my apprenticeship having to prepare a long drink of Pernod, iced down with mango sorbet and topped up with lemonade for our French pastry chef. In fact this became a common almost nightly treat for the senior members of the brigade especially on hot days, that and shots of Kirsch in the middle of service for our charming Hungarian assistant Maitre D’, or Whisky, that was destined for our crepes dessert for the Sous Chef, but that’s another story.

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I’m sure the Exec Chef who was never in the kitchen after 5pm was concerned about the amount of alcohol we used as he started marking bottles, but Prawns with a Pernod cream sauce was a big seller back in 1977. Of course Pernod and its more complex cousin Pastis tend to inspire either love or hate. The common response from many Australian’s is that following teenage binges on Ouzo or Sambuca, they can’t face Aniseed. But Pastis and French Anis and are altogether different beasts…. Never ever mixed with Cola!

Now I definitely, fall into the love camp and I have great memories from the early 1980’s of being in Provence and visiting the village of Villeneuve Loubet, birthplace of the great chef Escoffier and the culinary museum dedicated to him. It was like many typical Provencal villages as I remember it, a market one midweek morning and then in the afternoon when the market packed up the outdoor tables filled with locals lazily drinking from their milky glasses, maybe it’s a romantic image but it is one that has stayed with me.

villeneuve loubert

Today, as most of those around me know, I will use these anise infusions on almost any occasion that allows me. Hence one of our more popular items in the early days of Appellation, a pineapple and Pernod sorbet was teemed with a chocolate tart (below). And so almost 40 years later there is always a bottle of either Pastis or Pernod (or possibly both) in our cupboard and I usually enjoy it as they do in  Provence mixed with chilled water 1:5 without ice, but todays heat calls for something a little longer and cooler.

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At first I am reminded of a cocktail made by a truly great bartender and friend, Matthew Williams. Over the years Matthew plied me with many amazing cocktails but his La Feuille Morte made with Henri Bardouin Pastis was always a standout. However as this relies on having both great pastis and grenadine on hand I have to defer. But after quickly consulting Diffords on-line guide I have instead, with a surfeit of fresh mint and limes from the garden, chosen to make what they call a “Milky Mojito”.

Its hardly ground breaking in concept, but supplementing Pernod for white rum gives the this drink a whole new twist, and while Cuban purists and white rum fans will doubtlessly be flabbergasted and roll their eyes it looks like I have found myself a new summertime favourite – Salut!

mixing

“Milky Mojito”

12-15 leaves                       fresh mint
1 cup                                     crushed ice
25ml                                      sugar syrup*
30ml                                      lime juice – freshly squeezed
60ml                                      Pernod
Chilled sparkling mineral water to top up glass

Method

  • Place mint in a highball or your choice of glass and muddle (bruise)
  • Fill glass to brim with crushed ice, and add sugar syrup , lime juice and Pernod
  • Top with Mineral water, stir and serve

*prepare sugar syrup in advance by boiling together ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup water until sugar dissolves, cool and store in the refrigerator in a clean jar or bottle for use in cocktails.