In India, the word subji or sabji means raw vegetable, but the word also refers to any cooked vegetable combination. Subjis are traditionally served, especially in the North, with breads like paratha, poori, naan or chapati.
Unfortunately the famous couple are not a common dinner item on my home menu because my father can’t eat them. Not that he wouldn’t try, but he just doesn’t enjoy eating with his fingers. He considers it primitive.
Refined gentlemen invented knives and forks, he opines, and eating with the fingers is for uncivilized natives. I have had this discussion with him on just too many occasions. The celestial art of tearing off a piece of the warm flaky bread and scooping up a little of the succulent vegetables and popping it in the mouth is a delight that he will have to appreciate next lifetime.
However, when Dad eats elsewhere, it’s ‘no-holds-barred’ in the kitchen. I sometimes whip out the frozen raw Malaysian puff pastry parathas (I hear gasps) and bake them on a non-stick fry pan. Ok, it would be better to always make them completely from scratch, and I sometimes do, but more often poories or chapatis. I cook parathas from their semi-pre-made form for those times when my son, a great hot paratha fan, wants something fast and tasty. With children in the house, you often need shortcuts.
I could have pretended that I made these from scratch, but someone would certainly ask me for the recipe, so honesty is practical in this case. By the way, I am not referring to the totally pre-cooked parathas from India that come frozen and are quite abominable. I use the rounds of frozen raw paratha pastry that are transferred frozen to a hot, dry pan and puffed without the use of any oil or butter.
I preboiled whole potatoes in salted water (the ones in the photo above are actually completely cooked) and gathered fresh silverbeet leaves (Swiss Chard), some crisp cauliflowerettes, green peas, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, garam masala and asafetida. And some salt, and a smidge of yogurt. I usually add chili – fresh or powdered – but this time I did not.
There is no exact recipe. I just heated the whole spices in a little ghee until darkened a few shades and aromatic, then added the greens, cauliflower and peas, a little water, the potato cubes, pan-fried panir, garam masala and salt. When the cauliflower pieces were just tender, I added a tablespoon of rich, thick Greek yogurt, and of course a smidge of raw sugar to accent the savoury. Adding a sweetener like gur, jaggery or sugar is something all Gujarati cooks know, and do. Perhaps I lived there in a previous life. Or perhaps I’ll be there next time around, with my Dad, enjoying parathas and subjis – with our fingers.
Posted by Kurma on 1/7/11; 5:38:28 AM