Saturday, 16 August 2008

Using Leftover Rice: Tawa Pulao, An Indian Veg Recipe

To understand Tawa Pulao, one needs to know what 'Pav Bhaji' is. A medley of vegetables, - tomatoes (Yeah, I know that it's a fruit! *Sticks out tongue*), onions, boiled potatoes & peas, and capsicum are the most commonly used ones - flavoured with pav bhaji masala (A beautifully fragrant, strong blend of selected spices, such as, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chillies and cloves.), ginger-garlic paste and lots of butter is slowly simmered for several hours. During the course of prolonged cooking, as the flavours harmoniously marry, the vegetable curry is thoroughly mashed. Then, this delightful "bhaji" is served with "pav", i.e. soft, fluffy square buns (Very similar to burger buns. The chief difference is their shape.), that are sliced into two each, and shallow-fried in butter till browned, with a crisp surface. More butter is added while serving (to the bhaji) the exquisite preparation, and it is always accompanied by a wedge of lemon & salad. (The salad always contains onions. Many restaurants/streetfood joints/takeaways also give slices of crunchy cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.)

By the end of the day, Maharashtrian (Pav Bhaji hails from Maharashtra, a state in western India.) street food vendors start combining any leftover bhaji with plain, boiled rice, to make a dish that is a potpourri of colours, flavours, and textures - Tawa Pulao! Some eateries serve this pilaf with raita - a refreshing side dish made of smooth, seasoned yoghurt.

At home, you don't need to have bhaji leftovers to be able to cook this yummy dish. Simply start with a sautéed mixture of green chillies (For a milder dish, deseed the chilli and discard the seeds before using.), diced onions, ginger-garlic paste (Freshly grate the ginger and garlic if you like.), diced tomatoes and capsicum. (Yes, in this order!) Then, pour in a decent quantity of tomato ketchup. (Ketchup is not traditionally added to the dish, but works better than tomato purée, with its sweet and sour taste. The spices and flavourings in it also help build a rich flavour base.) Generously sprinkle with pav bhaji masala (Since we won't be adding any more spices.) and add a little turmeric powder. Cook until it is reduced starts to leave the oil. Tip in the leftover rice and mix until each pearl-white grain is coated in the spicy red sauce. Then, tumble in some boiled, fresh or frozen green peas. Switch off the heat, and serve with refreshing chopped green coriander! I also recommend some grated, melting processed cheese on the top!

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