A popular Punjabi dish made with eggplant roasted on an open flame for a smoked flavour, then mashed and combined with spices. It is perfect served with warm rotis for a light meal, as a side or dip.
Baingan bharta is a popular North Indian dish. Baingan is eggplant/aubergine/brinjal and bharta means mashed.
It is prepared with smoked eggplants which are mashed, then cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices to make a rich and tasty light meal or side.
Eggplants are very good at absorbing large amounts of oils and liquids through cooking. Combined with these ingredients, they develop some rich and complex flavours.
Baingan bharta is usually served with warm rotis or parathas.
Select a good eggplant
Eggplants should be fresh, so select those which are firm with a smooth and shiny skin, and have a green stem. If they have any indentations or show any sign of dehydration, they are not fresh.
Roast on an open flame
The way to achieve a smoky flavour is by roasting the eggplant on an open flame.
Once the eggplant has been washed and dried, pierce with a fork or make several cuts through the skin. It is roasted directly on an open flame to render a wonderfully tender pulp and delicate smoked flavour. This can be done on a medium direct flame of your gas range, on a grill or bbq. Turn it occasionally using tongs, to ensure even cooking. The eggplant is ready when a knife slides smoothly right through it.
Once the eggplants are cooked, remove from the flame and allow to cool before removing the stem and peeling off the skin. If a few bits of skin remain, you can leave them as they enhance the smokey flavour.
Transfer the pulp to a bowl and roughly mash using a potato masher or a fork, then set aside.
To make the bharta
Prepare the base for the bharta by lightly roasting cumin seeds to release their flavour. Once the aroma is released, pour in the oil and turn the heat up to medium. (Take care not to burn the cumin.) Next, sautée the garlic, ginger and green chilli, then add the onion.
At this point, some recipes call for chopped fresh tomatoes, but I use tomato purée for its rich, ‘cooked’ flavour. Add the eggplant pulp and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves and serve warm or at room temperature with fresh warm rotis or parathas.
- 2 medium eggplants, washed and dried
- oil for rubbing on eggplant
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds,
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust quantity according to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish (coriander leaves)
Roast the eggplants
Make several small cuts along the eggplants or pierce with a fork. Rub the eggplants with oil. Roast them directly on a medium flame, bbq, or grill. Turn using tongs to ensure they are cooked evenly - approx. 5 minutes on each side should be enough. They are done when a knife can slide smoothly through. Remove from flame and allow to cool, then remove and discard the stems and the skin*.
Transfer the pulp to a bowl and roughly mash using a potato masher, then set aside.
Make the bharta
In a skillet on low heat, warm the cumin seeds. Once the aroma is released, pour in the oil and increase the heat to medium. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilli, and stir fry for a minute. Then add the onion and sauté till softened.
Stir in the tomato purée, salt, red chilli, cumin and coriander powders, and cook on a low flame for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Mix in the eggplant pulp and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and serve with a garnish of chopped cilantro.
*It is not a problem if some skin remains while peeling the eggplant, as this will add to the smoked flavour.
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