Eggplant is one of my favourite vegetables, as I adore the way it morphs into the most succulent dishes. However, I have never mastered the art of cooking eggplant the way I have experienced it while travelling. I still drool over memories of the sweet, tangy eggplant we ate daily while on a trip to China and I can still taste the wonderous moussaka that I gobbled up while in Greece. Usually my eggplant comes out mushy or overly oily and flavourless, and I am always disappointed in my attempts. Enter eggplant bharta! Now this, I can cook! The eggplant is silky smooth and seasoned to perfection. It is heavenly served with a bowl of basmati or on a rice pilaf. This is one of my favourite dishes in Indian restaurants, simply eaten with warm, fluffy, garlic naan.
This recipe for baingan bharta comes from Jackie Kai Ellis’ book, “The Measure of my Powers”, a powerful memoir that includes gorgeous recipes. The beauty of Ms. Ellis’ words is equal to the beauty of the food she creates – this recipe included.
One note: I don’t think the green peas are necessary. I made this dish this summer with fresh garden peas, but I found them more of a distraction than anything. You can be the judge when you make your own.
I will be sending today’s post over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday this week. It has been a long time since I have visited, and I can’t wait to catch up with everyone and see what they have been creating in their kitchens.
3 large eggplants (3 ½ pounds)
¼ cup mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 green chili or small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
4 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
¾ cup chopped cilantro
1/3 – ½ cup plain yogurt
garam masala for serving
Preheat oven to 500°F.
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the skins are scorched and crumpled and flesh feels very soft. Set aside to cool until you can handle them with your fingers.
Scoop the flesh into a large bowl and mash with a fork, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and add the onions. Add ½ teaspoon salt and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds and cook until fragrant. Add the chopped chili, garlic, ginger, tomato paste and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes.
Scatter the fresh tomatoes and another ½ teaspoon salt into the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce thickens.
Place the eggplant into the sauce and stir to combine. Cook over low heat for about 15 – 25 minutes, stirring until the dish comes together into a smooth, silky curry.
Fold in the peas and cook to warm through. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cilantro, yogurt and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
Serve hot, sprinkled with a pinch of garam masala, alongside a bed of fluffy basmati rice.