Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baingan Bharta (Chargrilled Eggplant Mash)

Baingan/Eggplant/Brinjal/Aubergine whichever name you prefer is one of my favourite vegetables. Its a great vegetable and works well across many cuisines like Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese. This way of cooking eggplant is probably one of my favourite, the chargrilling gives the eggplant a beautiful smoky flavour. Dont go by its looks, its mash like appearance is not very sexy but it tastes divine.

I made this for dinner last night with dal and rotis. You know its good when there are no leftovers, though I wouldn't mind some leftovers right now!

This is a staple Indian vegetable side dish. It uses the basic spices that are found in every Indian household. Indian cooking seems complicated to many, due to the different ingredients and spices it uses. If you cook Indian dishes often, or would like to, then if you can have the basics in your pantry, whipping up Indian food will be easy. I will delve into the different spices and how to make your own masalas (spice mixes) in another post. I will introduce some of the basic spices in this post as well.


Serves 4 


1 large Eggplant
1 Medium sized Onion
2 small tomatoes or 1 medium sized tomato
4-5 cm piece of ginger - grated
5-6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/4-1/2 tsp Chilli powder ( you can add as much or as little depending on how hot you like it)
1 tsp Ground Coriander powder
1/2 cup Chopped fresh coriander (use the stems as well)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Vegetable oil


Wash the eggplant and pat it dry. On an open flame on your stove top, roast the eggplant. Keep turning the eggplant with tongs if one area is more charred than the others. The skin will turn black and it will begin to soften and ooze a little bit of its juices. Nothing to worry about, this is what you want.

Keep roasting the eggplant till you feel the centre of it is softened and all the skin has been charred. Now remove from flame and let it cool down.

Meanwhile chop the onion and  tomato, grate the ginger and finely chop the garlic cloves. Set aside.

Once the eggplant has completely cooled, you can start peeling the skin. Remove all of the skin, we dont want any black bits and you should be left with something like in the above picture.

Run a fork through the eggplant continuously, breaking it up like in the picture below.

In a kadai (Indian wok) you can use a normal pan too if you like, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot enough add the cumin seeds. Once the cumin starts turning brown add the onions and let them cook till they are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and keep stirring. Dont let it brown, we just want to cook it through and still retain the freshness of the ginger.

Add the tomatoes, cover with a lid and let it cook on a medium flame for 5-10 minutes. Open the lid and add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and give it a good stir so that everything is combined.

The picture below is of my spice box with my essential Indian spices. The more fragrant ones like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin powder I choose to bottle separately. This is my go to box for my everyday Indian cooking. They are available easily in all supermarkets but I would suggest buying from your local Indian spice store. They are much cheaper and better quality too.

Let the spices cook off on a low flame for another 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to it followed by the chopped coriander stems (leaves are for garnish). The coriander stem and root has a lot of flavour, I like to use it during the process of cooking and not just for garnish.

Cover the kadai with a lid and let it cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. You can adjust the seasoning after tasting it. If its too thick or dry add a little water to loosen it, although I have never needed to. Remove from the stove and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and its ready to be eaten. It keeps well frozen and in the fridge for later use as well. 

Best served with rotis on the side.

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