A Sunday Brunch Breakthrough: Home Made Pav Rolls

Old-time recipes: Enjoy freshly baked rolls with bhaji






I’m so excited about this recipe – it represents a major  breakthrough in the brunch department.  I love, love, love street dishes like Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav but the pav available in Delhi is so disappointing it’s almost not worth eating. Here, I’ve hit on a solution – authentic,  homemade soft fluffy pav.  Incredibly, it’s based on a very old recipe for Scottish morning rolls, and really easy to make.  Give it a go – I know what I’ll be making for brunch tomorrow…

A Very Scottish ‘Pav’

(first appeared in Mint 12th May)

I live in two parallel culinary universes. In one, I spend abnormal amounts of time thinking about or making cake, biscuits and bread. The other is where I tramp around the back alleys eating street food, pestering vendors for recipes in a bid to replicate the dishes at home. Occasionally the two worlds collide and today’s recipe is a good example.Pav bhaji, beloved snack of millions of Mumbaikars, is one of my favourite street foods but I only like it with the pukka soft, pillowy pav available in Mumbai and Goa. The pre-packed pav available in shops in Delhi just won’t do.

I recently came by a great recipe for vegetable bhaji but have yet to find someone to share pav know-how, despite repeated stalking of bakers in Goa and on the Konkan coast. Then, on a recent trip back to Scotland, I had a thought. I realized that pav, despite its Portuguese heritage, is almost identical to what we call “morning rolls”, the vehicle for our so-good but definitely artery-clogging “bacon butties”. All I had to do was find a recipe for morning rolls and I could be serving up pav-bhaji brunches in no time.

I needed to look no further than one of Scotland’s oldest cookbooks, The Scots Kitchen, written by F. Marian McNeill in 1929 (I inherited my mother’s 1976 edition). It is, incidentally, a wonderful compendium of long-forgotten and evocatively named recipes, like Cabbie-Claw (salted and dried cod) and Parlies (a type of gingerbread made for members of Parliament). In fact, this gem of a book always reminds me that Scotland once had a cuisine as rich as any in Europe—in the early years of the 20th century, there was even a Scottish version of Ile Flottante made with quince, egg whites, cream and wine. Although now most Scots buy pre-sliced, factory-produced bread, we were once particularly well-endowed in the artisan bread department—the Aberdeen buttery could have given the croissant a run for its money.

Scottish Morning Rolls, the softest, fluffiest of breads, were once made in every home for breakfast and traditionally known as baps—possibly, the author suggests, “an analogy with pap, the mammary gland, on account of its shape and size”. I see no good reason to deviate too far from McNeill’s recipe, except to bring the measurements up to date and introduce fast-action yeast. And, of course, to point out that the bap does a great impersonation of pav.

Pav/Scottish Morning Rolls

Makes 12


450g all-purpose flour (maida)

2 tsp salt

1tsp sugar

1 sachet of fast-action yeast

50g butter

150ml of cold whey—I always have whey in the kitchen from paneer-making but if you don’t, use water

150ml hot milk

A little extra cold milk for brushing


In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the butter and use your fingertips to blend it into the flour mixture. Pour in the milk and whey/water mixture and mix to form a rough dough. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes in a warm place (not too difficult to find at this time of year in India). After 10 minutes, you will see that the dough has already started to seem more elastic—the yeast has done its work without any arm-numbing kneading.

Scottish Morning Rolls are traditionally known as baps






Scottish Morning Rolls are traditionally known as baps

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured board and knead gently for about 10 seconds until you have a smooth ball of dough. The dough should be very very soft but not too sticky. Put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for about 1 hour until it has doubled in size.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knock the air out, then cut into 12 pieces. Knead each piece into a smooth ball, then place in a lightly oiled tin. Cover again and leave until the pavhave doubled in size—this will vary according to how warm your kitchen is. Thepav would have stuck together as they expanded. Brush the tops of the pavwith a little milk.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Bake the pav for about 15 minutes until the tops are brown. Let the pav cool slightly before tearing into them.

Baps/morning rolls/pav don’t keep well. They’re at their best soon after they emerge from the oven so make sure your bhaji or vada is ready and waiting


23 thoughts on “A Sunday Brunch Breakthrough: Home Made Pav Rolls

  1. Hi Kiran – all the shops that sell imported stuff. I’ve seen it in Bombay Fruit MArket in Khan Market, I buy it at Mr Lucky’s shop in INA, also available at Modern Bazaar, Vasant Lok. You could also do it with normal dried yeast, but you would need to activate the yeast first before adding to the flour.

  2. many thanks pam — so love the bombay pau that i will actually make my first foray into bread making with this recipe 🙂 bless you!

  3. Here are a couple of tips for the bhaaji from someone who has been a patron of Sardar Pav Bhaji in Tardeo, Bombay for the last 40+ years – grew up in the vicinity:

    1) Do not over-engineer the bhaaji by adding a greater variety of vegetables than just the following:

    Onions, Boiled Potatoes (Cubed), Tomatoes (cut fine), Peas. NOTE: NO BRINJALS, BELL PEPPERS.

    2) After you heat the oil and before you add the onions, as the first ingredient, add Cumin seeds – about 1/4th teaspoon per 2 helpings of bhaaji.

    3) The salt should always be a little on the excess because the pavs invariably have less salt.

  4. The portion I love about Pav Bhaji is the butter. Salted butter on the pav, and the bhaji.
    Even though your pavs may be very delicious straight out of the oven, try roasting them on a pan with a bit of butter. This makes the outside crisp, while the rest of the pav remains incredibly soft. Perfect vehicle for the delicious onion and lime soaked bhaji!
    (I love the pav bhaji of Mayaram’s in Calcutta, though I live in Bbay and gorge on PB of almost every place, especially home)

  5. 1 sachet of fast-action yeast is how many grams (just in case the sachet I buy ends up bigger or smaller than what you recommend)

  6. Hi Pamela, I just happened to discover your blog, well its only because i am new to the blogging world myself, just about a month at max. Although i am still to read through your older posts but this one here is very intriguing, i am sure trying your ‘Scottish Morning Rolls’ very soon.

  7. Hi, Pamela, whats your recipe for the Bhaji, please share! Thanks for making life in the kitchen so easy!

  8. hi pamela
    I have been following your blog for last few days.I have written u before,read about ur uparwali chai concept n loved it. I am an aspiring tea connoisseur and writing a book on tea and tea time recipes.would love to meet u n share ur experiance with a cup of tea.Jst need some tym from ur busy schedule hoping and lookin forward for a reply and may be a meetin.

  9. Hello Pamela, I have followed this wonderful blog for some time now, it just brings the Delhi of my University days vividly alive for me. I’m now a Bangalore based food writer, for a beautiful magazine, Food Lover’s Bangalore. I see that you follow a number of blogs – do check out http//coorg.com, A Gourmet’s Table In Coorg & Coorg Modern. That’s my space for the cooking of Coorg, where I come from. The food is extraordinary, quite uniquely shaped by the lanscape. I think you will like it!

  10. Hi Pamela, I’ve been following your blog since almost 2 years now… Great pav recipe, but 1 question, what would be the quantity of yeast in case one is using fresh yeast, the one that comes in the cake form?

  11. Hi Raj – for one sachet of quick dried yeast (7g) you would need about 20g fresh yeast

  12. Mumbai Pav like french bread is very lean
    though for a different reason
    no Money for butter or or even oil
    certainly no milk
    to get more authentic make a
    lean dough just salt water yeast
    and you bet it will be more like
    mumbai pav

  13. Hi Tony – thanks for the tip although I’ve always found bread made with only water is a lot chewier

  14. Pingback: A Sunday Brunch Breakthrough: Home Made Pav Rolls - GenX Deals

  15. I am loving your blog. The pav was a surprise to me when I first moved to Mumbai. What on earth was a bap doing beside my curry? Recently I came across some (accidentally?) well fired ones and the illusion was complete. Fabulous recipe and if I didn’t have pav delivered I might even work out how to operate my oven. Now if you could find an Indo/Scot version of the rowie…

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