Every so often the heart lingers and my mind wanders back to the yester-years. The reminiscence of all the moments spent with family back home makes me feel heavy-heart-ed at times. Having geographically drifted away for a little less than a decade now, there is an obvious constant yearning. Visiting home once in a while is just not the same. Technology helps staying in touch but that doesn’t suffice. For these flashes of blues, cherishing the bygone moments does lighten the heart a little.
During such nostalgic times one can sometimes find solace in food. Growing up, I never liked baingan/vankaya (eggplant). The very texture and looks of it kinda creep-ed me out. It was stressed at home that it is the ‘king of vegetables’ and super tasty, but my taste buds never felt gutsy to try it. So, mom would make the baingan curry adding potatoes in it. I would scoop out all the potatoes and gravy onto my plate, leaving mom, dad and brother with all the eggplant chunks. But, I’ve surprised myself in the last few years and began to cook and as well as like eggplant. It is still not my favorite vegetable out there but I don’t avoid it per se.
The eggplant-potato curry mom often made back home is quite different from this one. Baingan Bhartha is a mashed roasted eggplant dish that is married with an onion and tomato base and spiced up with simple aromatic spices. And because this dish does not have visible chunks of eggplant, I prefer it to other varieties of eggplant dishes. So, I brought these royal brinjals home from the farmer’s market to make this bhartha. Roasting the eggplants gives a nice depth of flavor and a hint of sweetness. Traditionally, eggplants are roasted over the stove flame which gives it an even better smoky flavor. The tomatoes and eggplant complement each other really well yielding a vibrant delicious dish that can be enjoyed with roti, naan or rice.
Prep + Cook time: 1 hr
– 3 eggplants (approx 5 to 6 inches in length)
– few Tbsps of oil
– 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
– 2 or 3 green chillies
– 1 medium red onion
– 1 medium tomato
– 1/2 tsp turmeric
– 1 tsp red chilli powder
– 3/4th tsp ginger and garlic paste or grated
– 1/4th tsp cumin powder
– 1/4th tsp coriander powder
– salt to taste
– fistful of coriander/cilantro
1. Preheat oven to 425 deg F.
2. Rinse eggplants well and pat them dry. Take a baking sheet lined with parchment. Place a rack over the baking sheet (so that the eggplants cook through on all sides). Drizzle a few drops of oil over the eggplants, and massage them coating the oil all over. Place these on the rack/baking sheet and pop them into the oven. Let it roast for atleast 40 to 45 mins. Reduce the time a little if using smaller eggplants.
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet/pan, heat a couple of tsps of oil. Add cumin seeds, slit green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. After a minute, add finely chopped onions. Add a pinch of salt and saute for a few minutes until the onions are slightly brown.
4. Add turmeric, chilli powder, cumin and coriander powder. Saute for a couple of minutes. The, add diced tomatoes and let cook for few minutes until the tomatoes are cooked. Set this aside.
5. Once, the eggplants are done, remove from the oven and let them cool down a little. Then peel the outer skin (it should come off very easily). Take the eggplant in a bowl and using a fork or a spoon mash it well.
6. Add the mashed eggplant to the skillet. Add salt to taste, mix well and cook for at-least 5 mins so that the flavors are well combined. Add chopped coriander and serve.
It is best served with roti or naan or rice. So, whether you are an eggplant skeptic or lover, you’d love this dish!