Eggplant, aubergine, brinjal, and closer home, our poor old baingan, of the nightshade family, is a shy sort that attracts raillery from its fanciful and froufrou relatives who are mostly loved and adored. It is the pilgarlic of the summer lot, mellow and long-faced, it strives to be optimistic in the midst of pot-bellied tomatoes and lush-bodied squashes, despite garnering some sympathetic pats from its pungent pal, garlic. Yet, it manages to hold its own in the face of abuse, like charring, burning and heavy degorging. With its meaty, seed-speckled, spongy insides, it makes up for having lost its shiny, deep-purple skin in the course of enduring such abuse.
And we at Tadka got thinking about its many manifestations..the Baba Ghanoush is too bland, the Melitzanosalata, too fleshy. The traditional, homely Bharta – too oily, and the Romanian Zacusca, too mushroomy. So, in our kitchens, an experiment to tame the oil-soaking might of the baingan has fetched delicious results. It’s versatile – it can coat the in-between of a sandwich or a wrap; and oh-so-humble – it can take dunking and scooping from any glutenous breads or chips; it covers both ends of the spectrum with nary a gripe – it can be washed down with an exotic Zinfandel or even your everyday, light and airy ginger lemonade.
Tadka’s Benign Baingan Bharta
1 Large eggplant
A pinch of salt
Pressure cook the eggplant, preferably cut in thick slices and immersed in a couple of inches of water, and the pinch of salt. De-skin the eggplants gently and mash the flesh with a fork. Set aside.
For the Dry Masala Powder:
1 Small bay leaf
A small piece of cinnamon
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
½ Teaspoon fenugreek seeds
Dry-roast the above in a small pan, let cool and powder in your blender or coffee grinder.
For the Thick Gravy:
2 Tablespoons light olive oil
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
A pinch of turmeric
1 Medium-sized onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon each of ginger and garlic – minced fine or pastes
A dash of salt
1 ½ Medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 Teaspoons each of red chilli powder and coriander powder
A dash of aamchur powder
Heat the oil in a pan and throw in the cumin seeds and turmeric, once they brown up, add the onion, ginger, garlic, sprinkle the salt and fry until golden brown. Add the tomatoes, let them cook down, then add the tomato paste and all the masalas and more salt, according to taste. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the pulpy eggplants. Cover and let cook for over 5 minutes.
Add the dry masala powder to the Bharta at this point and stir until it is well incorporated. Let cook, covered, for another 4-5 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve with your choice of breads, wraps or chips. Work in a nutritious salad on the side, or just put out some onion rings drizzled with lemon juice.
Our New Bairn..er..Bharta is being shared with –