What is Sabji?
“Sabji” in Punjabi (or “sabjee” in Hindi) means “vegetables” or “vegetable dish.” The word “sabji” comes from the Hindi word “sabz,” which means “vegetable.” Sabji is typically made with a mix of fresh vegetables, spices, and herbs. It can be served either as a side dish or as a main course. Sabji is a popular choice for Hindu religious fasting days, as it is considered to be a light and healthy meal.
The dish is also often served during festivals and special occasions. Sabji can be composed of various vegetables, including eggplant, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, okra, red bell peppers, green peas, mushrooms, spinach, and more. Each sabji is unique, from the spices employed to the selection of vegetables.
Our version of sabji is an authentic Punjabi, mixed-vegetable dish coated in a complex curry paste, made from olive oil, tomato paste, homemade garam masala, turmeric, and red chili powder, and baked in the oven until fork-tender.
Skip those boring sautéed or steamed vegetables for this flavor-packed savory side dish! Eating your vegetables never tasted so good.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What you Need to Know to Make Sabji
Cutting the Vegetables Roughly the Same Size
Cut the vegetables into pieces that are roughly the same size to ensure the vegetables cook evenly. For the potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half into three pieces lengthwise, and finally cut each piece into three or four additional pieces, yielding approximately 24 pieces. For a closer look into how to achieve a large dice, watch this video.
For the cauliflower, the easiest way to cut it is by cutting a circle around the center of the base of the cauliflower head to remove the florets. Then, separate each floret into its tiny flowers, yielding tiny pieces of cauliflower. Cut the remaining pieces of the cauliflower stems into paysanne cuts.
Still unsure of how to cut the cauliflower?
Check out this video to learn how to cut vegetables into paysanne cuts. Although the video may demonstrate paysanne cuts with carrots, cutting a similar size and shape is the desired result for the cauliflower stems.
What is Tadka?
Tadka (also known as “tarka”) is the technique of blooming spices in hot ghee or clarified butter to catalyze the release of their natural oils. Blooming imparts intense fragrance and strong flavor to the oil. Tadka may also refer to the base of a curry dish, which is generally composed of onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and hot ghee or clarified butter cooked on low heat for an extended period to bloom the spices and draw out those flavors.
We use the latter technique for this recipe, which serves as the base for our dish. To learn more about tadka, visit our post “How to Make Tadka – the Base of Northern Indian Curries.”
Storage of Spices
The shelf-life of whole spices is up to 4 years, whereas the shelf-life for ground spices is up to 3 years. Be sure to verify that your spices are not expired. When storing your spices, store them in airtight containers in a cool dark place. This step will ensure that the spices stay fresh for the maximum time.
How to Clarify the Butter
To clarify the butter, place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. As it begins to bubble, a white foam will appear. This white foam is the lactose or milk solids in the butter. Use a large serving spoon to remove the white foam from the butter by skimming it from the top.
We clarify the butter to increase its smoke point. The presence of lactose or milk solids in the butter will cause it to burn more quickly. This step is essential as we are blooming the spices and cooking down the onions, garlic, and ginger for a significant time until it resembles a paste.
Although you may not be able to remove all of the lactose or milk solids, removing some of them will impact the butter’s smoke point.
Be Careful Not to Burn the Spices
Cook the tadka on the stovetop at medium-low heat. The cooking temperature should remain medium-low to low throughout the cooking process. Keep in mind that you will be cooking the ingredients for 30-40 minutes. Allow the spices to sizzle but not burn.
Note that the onions and spices may stick slightly to the pot or pan. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking, but this result is expected.
How Do You Know When the Tadka is Done?
The tadka is ready when it becomes a soft succulent brown paste of caramelized onions and peppers with a sweet smell of ginger and cumin to the nose.
How to Adjust the Spice Level
We advise that you use one green chili pepper. However, this will create a soft and mild heat. If you prefer spicy curry dishes that will make you sweat, we sympathize! In this case, add one to two additional green chili peppers for an extra kick.
Coating the Vegetables in the Tadka without Mashing Them
When you stir the vegetables, we recommend folding each spice, paste, or ingredient into the vegetables gently with a spatula or a wooden spoon to ensure the vegetables do not become mushy.
How to Eat It
Reheating and Storing your Sabji
Store leftover vegetables in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume them for up to 4 days. To reheat them, put them in the microwave at 70% for 1 minute. Alternatively, wrap them in foil and place them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) for 7-10 minutes or until warm throughout.
Purge Your Fridge - How to Use Leftover Ingredients
You just finished gobbling down our sabji, and you are left with the following ingredients:
- 3/4 red bell pepper
- 3/4 green bell pepper
- 1/4 cauliflower head
Use these ingredients in a dinner salad or a breakfast frittata!
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1/4 red bell pepper diced
- 1/4 green bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 thumb ginger 3 thumbs thick, peeled and grated
- 1 green chili pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/8 tsp red chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds heaping
- 1/8 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/16 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/16 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 green cardamom pod
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 3 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 3 carrots large dice, 3/4-inch or 2cm cubes
- 3 white potatoes large dice, 3/4-inch or 2cm cubes
- 12 fingers okra 3/4-inch or 2cm slices
- 3/4 head of cauliflower separate into tiny florets and paysanne cuts 1/2-inch or 2mm thick
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp mild Patak's curry paste heaping
- 1 tbsp tomato paste heaping
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp ketchup optional
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3/4 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
1. Preheat the Oven and Cut the Vegetables
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).
- Wash and peel the potatoes and the carrots.
- Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half in 3 pieces lengthwise, and then cut each piece into 3-4 additional cubes. Cut carrots into large slices. Remove the ends of the okra fingers and slice them. Set aside.
- Dice onions, green peppers, red peppers, and thinly slice chilies.
- Remove the florets from the cauliflower head. Further, separate each floret into its tiny flowers. Cut remaining pieces into paysanne cuts.
- Finely chop cilantro. Set aside.
2. Toast and Grind Garam Masala
- Break open the cardamom pods, discard the shells, and set aside the seeds.
- Place a dry saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat.
- Add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, and cloves.
- Dry sauté the spices for 1 minute, to toast them.
- Add whole and ground spices to a coffee or spice grinder and grind them into a powder. Set aside.
3. Clarify the Butter
- Place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add butter and allow it to melt.
- Turn the stovetop down to low heat if it begins to bubble.
- To clarify the butter, skim the white foam off the top with a large serving spoon to remove the lactose or milk solids.
4. Begin Cooking up the Tadka
- Add onions, red pepper, and green pepper to the pot. Increase the heat on the stovetop to medium-low and allow the vegetables to bubble softly.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the vegetables do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Add ginger and garlic.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
5. Bloom the Spices and Finish the Tadka
- Add green chili peppers, red chili powder, garam masala, cumin seeds, and salt.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Cover the pot with its lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
6. Coat the Vegetables in the Tadka
- Place a shallow oven-proof pan on the stovetop at medium-low heat.
- Melt the unsalted butter.
- Add cumin seeds and tadka to the pot. Stir well.
- Add potatoes, carrots, okra, and cauliflower.
- Turn the stovetop up to medium-high heat.
- Stir until vegetables are well-coated with the paste.
7. Add Tomato Paste, Curry Paste, and Olive Oil
- Whisk together tomato paste, Patak’s curry paste, ketchup (optional), and olive oil.
- Pour the mixture over the vegetables. Stir well.
- Cook for 20 minutes and occasionally stir to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
8. Add Cilantro, Coriander Seeds, and Salt
- Add cilantro, coriander seeds, and salt.
- Stir occasionally until the water evaporates. It should be dry when you put it in the oven.
9. Cook for One Hour
- Cover the oven-proof pan with its lid or foil, and cook in the oven for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender.
- Remove from the oven and garnish with extra chopped cilantro.
- Serve and enjoy.