Eggplant. It’s probably my favorite vegetable, as evidenced by the bounty of eggplant recipes I’ve been posting lately. In Hindi eggplant is baingan and bharta, as I understand it, pretty much just means mashed up. I first ordered this dish in an Indian restaurant years ago and fell in love, then I had it at my mother in laws house and was entirely infatuated. She makes it with yogurt (as opposed to without) and I like it much better. I make it quite often and it’s different every time, but here’s a basic version of my recipe. I’m not sure if this is legitimately desi because I pretty much just throw in all the spices I like best, but hey, it works for me and Samir gobbles it up so I’m going to keep on keeping on until some fabulous Indian chef tells me otherwise.
what you need:
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 small to medium tomato, chopped
- 1 yellow (NOT sweet) onion, chopped
- about 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional, sometimes I add these, sometimes I don’t)
- 1 or 2 ginger garlic cubes
- 2 tbl. cooking oil (grapeseed or olive)
- 1 small serrano or jalapeno pepper
- mustard seeds
- whole jerra (cumin)
- dhana jerra (coriander and cumin powder)
- haldi (turmeric) optional
- garam masala
- plain yogurt (any kind will work, but I like original or 2 percent)
- basmati rice
- khotmir (cilantro leaves)
what you do:
First you need to prepare the eggplant. You can do this in a variety of different ways. You can microwave it or roast it. I do a combination of both so I can get a distinctive flavor but in a short amount of time.
Poke some holds in the eggplant with a fork and microwave for 2 minutes. Remove eggplant and wrap completely in foil. The eggplant will get juicy as it cooks and has the potential to drip through the foil. For this reason, you should probably put two or three layers of foil over your eggplant. No need to put any oil or flavoring on the eggplant because you will be skinning it later on. You’ll need a gas stove to pull off this next culinary feat. Set the wrapped eggplant on a burner and turn the heat on a medium setting. Roast that eggplant over an open flame. It will taste exquisite! This is the best way to prepare your eggplant for baba ganouj as well. Get some tongs so you don’t burn yourself and rotate the eggplant on the burner every minute or so. Again, you can only do this if you have a gas stove.
It should take about five to six minutes for the eggplant to become completely mushy. Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then slice it in half lengthwise and peel the skin off. The skin should slide right off with a fork or a butter knife. Take the skinned eggplant and mash it up. You can use a food processor or one of these guys (I love my hand blender, comes in super handy). You basically want to process the eggplant so it’s blended. This is the bharta part of the recipe.
Set the eggplant aside in a bowl. In a large skillet put two tablespoons of oil in the skillet and turn on medium-high heat. Add your mustard seeds. I love mustard seeds, I probably put about 2 tsp. in. Add 1 tsp. of whole jeera. Wait a minute or so for the seeds to make a popping sputtering sound and then add in a chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper (if you don’t like spicy food, only use half the pepper). Sautee for about one minute with the pepper and then add the entire onion. Add 2 tsp. dhana jerra powder and, if you’d like, add a generous pinch of haldi powder. This will turn your dish a yellow hue, but haldi is wonderful for your health so I add it to almost every recipe, even if it doesn’t call for it. This is up to you, I don’t think it really changes the taste all that much. Saute your onions, pepper, oil and spices for about five minutes, or until onions start to look translucent. This is called a vagar, it’s basically a way of infusing flavor into the oil.
Add your chopped tomato to the vagar and keep cooking for another three minutes or so. Add 1/2 a cup of frozen peas (steam them in the microwave or on the stove first). The peas will change the flavor of the dish so if you’re not a big pea fan I would leave these out. Mix the peas in and cook for just another minute or so.
Now add in the eggplant you mashed earlier along with 1 tsp. of garam masla powder and however much salt you would like. Cook for another minute just to get everything mixed together nicely. Remove from heat. Allow the eggplant to cool for five minutes or so.
Add in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of yogurt. In the photos posted I hadn’t blended the eggplant and yogurt together yet simply because I thought it looked prettier all deconstructed. Go ahead and blend the yogurt and eggplant all together with a spoon or fork. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with some chopped up khotmir leaves. Add more salt to taste if needed.
You can eat this dish warm or cold, it’s wonderful both ways and it definitely makes a fabulous leftover. In the photo below I did not add enough yogurt— I ended up adding more after I mixed it all together. You will want to mix your yogurt in before serving it over rice. You want there to be enough yogurt to make the dish a nice creamy, opaque color. I’ll post more photos for reference the next time I make it.
Eat up, eggplant lovers!