‘Patal bhaaji to jeevan ka saar hai (Patal bhaaji is the essence of life!) – that is the verdict pronounced by my dear mama (maternal uncle) almost every time he talks to me. His love for this simple homely side-dish is enormous – maybe because he studied botany and hence loves greens. I kinda suspect he has it daily :). Another reason – I don’t eat curd, which is an ingredient and maybe he says this just to motivate me towards it. Thankfully, my mom settled to this curd-free version – which is what I relish and have adapted.
No Maharashtrian thaali (specially in a traditional pangat) is complete without the combination of varan(daal)-bhaat(rice)-kadhi-patal-bhaaji. ‘Patal’ in marathi means liquid. This side dish is supposed to be mixed with daal and rice while eating and the dry sides are to be had with roti/chapati. It can be prepared with any greens – arbi leaves/ mooli leaves/palak/ methi. My everyday version comprises of palak and methi – and I prefer having it with roti rather than daal-rice.
Palak/ spinach leaves – half kg, cleaned and chopped roughly
Methi leaves – a fistful, cleaned and chopped roughly. Use kasoori methi if you don’t have fresh ones.
Besan – 1.5 cups
Raw, un-roasted peanuts – a fistful
Jeera/ cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Rai/ mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 3 tsp (for tadka)
Green chilies – 1 chopped small
Heeng – 1 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Amchoor – 0.5 tsp (optional)
1. In a pressure cooker, put in chopped palak and methi leaves with enough water. Boil till 3 to 4 whistles. Alternatively, put these in a wok/ pan with water and cook covered till the leaves wilt and turn soft.
2. Let these cool down (don’t burn yourself!). Add in the besan slowly, mixing continuously so that lumps are not formed. I usually mix them using my hands. Don’t add all of the besan at one go, we want the greens to dominate the dish. You can stop adding the besan if you start to see more of yellow and less of green. If required, add water diligently to make this a gravy consistency, you want this neither runny nor a thick batter. Remember that the greens have been boiled with water at the first place.
3. Throw in the salt and peanuts.
4. Take a wok/ kadhai and heat oil in it.
5. When oil hot, add jeera, rai – let them pop and sizzle for half a minute.
6. Add in heeng and chopped green chilies, let them cook for half a minute.
7. Add in the mixture of besan-greens-water.
8. Now let this mixture cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring in between. Be careful – this tends to splutter while cooking. You should start to see a creamy uniform texture after 5 minutes.
9. Add the amchoor powder (If using).
10. Eat this piping hot. I am never able to appreciate cold patal bhaaji – it usually turns out to be a dampener.
Note: To make the with-curd version, skip the amchoor and add in half a cup of curd along with besan in step 2.