This is a question that I seem to ask myself quite often. Some of my favorites never make it to these pages because they seem too simple, somehow. Like this homely eggplant potato bhaaji (subzi, a combination of a braise and stir-fry) that I made last night. But these are the recipes I keep returning to, that I have made so often that I can cook them on auto-pilot, and for that alone, they are definitely blog-worthy.
This recipe is almost stereotypical in its use of ingredients favored by Maharashtrian home cooks. A textbook example of the Maharashtrian way to cook vegetables.
It has the typical phodni (tempering) trio of halad, hing, mohri, that is, turmeric, asafetida and mustard seeds.
It uses flavorful (but not hot) dhane-jeere pud (coriander cumin powder). Simply mix cumin and coriander seeds in equal quantity, toast very gently, just enough to wake up the spices, and grind to a fine powder. I make this powder in half cup batches and am always amazed at how I run through it in a matter of days.
It uses goda masala, which has a smoky, savory flavor that is hard to describe in English but has a Marathi word- khamang. I stock up on this black gold on trips to Maharashtra. You can find it in some US stores, or make your own.
Jaggery or gool lends a complex sweetness and a glossy finish to the sauce clinging to the vegetables. This is the stuff that elevates the everyday bhaaji to a lick-your-fingers classic.
Peanut powder or danyacha koot makes a thick and nutty sauce. I roast peanuts, skin them and powder them coarsely, you want to retain a bit of texture. I store a jar of roasted powdered peanuts in the fridge and use it in typical Maharashrian ways like bhaajis, koshimbir and for sabudana khichdi.
You can use almost any combination of vegetables in place of the eggplant and potato. The salt draws out water from the vegetables that then cook in their own steam, which results in a concentrated flavor. But if you feel like the vegetables are sticking to the pan, feel free to add a few tablespoons of water to get the process going.
Vaangi Batata Bhaaji
1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wide pan. Temper it with
1 tsp. mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
2. Give a quick stir and immediately add
1 medium onion, cut in small dice
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
3. Saute the onions on medium heat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Then stir in
1 medium Italian eggplant, cut in large dice
4 medium potatoes, cut in large dice
4. Add the powders
1 tsp. red chilli powder (or to taste)
2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder
2 tsp. goda masala (or garam masala for a different taste)
1⁄4 cup roasted peanut powder
5. Add salt to taste and 2-3 tbsp. crushed jaggery.
6. Cover and cook the bhaaji for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Garnish with a large handful of minced fresh cilantro.
Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
We enjoyed this bhaaji with rotis and radish raita. It is also perfect with yogurt-rice and dal-rice.