Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I've probably mentioned my fondness for eggplant (aubergine, baingan) before in this blog. It's another of the 'uncool' things I like, along the lines of ghia and tinda. Somehow in North India, baingan is by and large regarded with either revulsion or a total lack of enthusiasm. However, down South, there are any number of creative uses of the baingan, from stuffing the little purple ones with spices to vangibhath( a spicy rice mix with eggplant, ideally made with the long, green variety), making a 'kari' or simple soth indian style vegetable out of it with mustard seed tadka and coconut garnish, to adding it to sambar (huli) or gojju which is an intense sauce made from a thickened tamarind mixed with jaggery and spices, and of course, the heavenly but takes-forever-to-make bagaare baingan for which I have a great recipe that I'm going to put up some day in the winter. One of the innovative uses I've put baingan to is using it as a base for pau bhaji. It tastes great, doesn't have the usual intense, smoky flavour which would fight with the pau bhaji masalas, if pressure-cooked and adds a better balance to the pau bhaji, apart from cutting down on the potato content of the bhaji. I've even served it to my baingan hating uncle who lapped it up until he found out what he had been eating!

When A and I were studying in France, we'd often come home not feeling like cooking, since our schedule was hectic, to say the least. We'd take out lebanese food from a nearby take-away but the whole point of the tiredness was that we didn't want exotic, we just wanted 'home' at that point. So we'd get some pita bread, mujaddara - which is basically masoor dal cooked with rice, and the babaganoush, which tasted pretty similar to bharta. That and yoghurt with pickle would make a typical tired-day dinner, and pretty satisfying too.

Bharta is a dish that I am very partial to, and it is also one of the simplest to make. One can dress it up any which way but it's fairly basic and goes well with almost anything.


1 large, round purple eggplant/ baingan
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oil

Bunch of coriander to garnish

  1. Wash the eggplant, dry it and roast it on a gastop or in an oven, turning it over from time to time, till fully cooked all the way inside. The outside skin will be charred black and the kitchen will reek - be warned! Peel off the skin once the eggplant has cooled down, and mash the inside flesh finely.

  2. Put the oil on to heat.

  3. Once hot, add the cumin seeds.

  4. Wait for them to brown a bit, then add the green chillies, onion and garlic. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the onions are on their way to browning.

  5. Add the tomatoes, stir to mix and cook, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are mushy.

  6. Add the eggplant, mix everything together and cook for a few more minutes so the flavours meld together.

  7. Add salt to taste and sprinkle coriander on top before serving.

Bharta tastes great with rotis, mosaru anna (dahi chawal - curd rice) and even with crusty bread for a snack. I've even enjoyed it with crackers, but that could be just me! Another fun thing to do with leftover bharta is to park it in a glass dish, sprinkle mozzarella or parmesan cheese on top and pop in the oven till the cheese melts.

I also have a 'rustic' recipe for bharta that I once read in a film magazine as Jackie Shroff's recipe. It's a quick and fun way to cook and it really does make a difference to the taste of the bharta.


1 purple large, round eggplant

2-3 cloves garlic

2 green chillies

1 onion

1 tomato

2 tsp oil if you must!

  1. Wash and dry all the ingredients.
  2. Cut 5 narrow slits in the eggplant and put in the garlic cloves and the green chillies.
  3. Roast the eggplant over the gas stove ( wood/ coal may be more authentic but what to do, I'm a city chick!) , turning from time to time, until charred on the outside and cooked inside.
  4. Remove eggplant and put the onion and tomato on to roast while eggplant cools.
  5. Take out the garlic cloves and green chillies and put them into the serving bowl. Peel the charred skin off the eggplant and park that too in the bowl.
  6. Once the tomato and onion are roasted, add those to the bowl, having first peeled both.
  7. Mash everything up (use your hands, this is fun!) together, then add salt to taste. At this stage you can go all slick and add the oil or some coriander. But the real joy of this is the robust flavour and smokiness of all the ingredients so I prefer not to make it dainty! At best, I slit a couple of green chillies and toss them on top of the dish.

Though it is completely non-decorative, especially as compared to other party food, I like to serve this when we have people over and it always goes down a treat. And you have the added benefit of a story to go with it!

1 comment:

Reeta Skeeter said...

IO love aubergines too!