Baingan ka Bharta is one of the classic north Indian recipes. What makes this recipe so rustic and beautiful is the aroma of the fire grilled eggplants.
The recipe has been long due. It is a hot favorite at home and for anyone I have made it for. It is cooked frequently and easily at home and also served at most Indian restaurants. “Bharta” in Hindi implies to anything that is mashed. “Baingan/Baigan” is eggplants or aubergines. The recipe is very typically north Indian ; it is also pretty simple, not requiring any spices that would not find easily.
This time I was fortunate enough to cook the Bharta with home-grown eggplants. The two Japanese eggplant plants are doing really well.. (knock on the wood!!) and we are having about 4 eggplants every week- just enough for the four of us. They are long, slender, pretty and above all made with love.
Did you know that Eggplant is actually a fruit and “botanically classified as a berry“?’
I have been busy beyond words, trying to spend as much time with the girls during the last remaining days of summer vacation. I know the frequency of posts have reduced drastically, but I will have to do what is more important to me. I know I am rushing through this post and feel not to so good to leave the blog alone for so long. I promise we will pace up once the school starts and we get settled in our new routines.
Traditionally the eggplants are grilled over charcoal or direct fire, and the dish is wonderfully infused with this irresistible smoky flavor. I have a cook top that runs on gas, so I often roast the eggplants straight on the stove top. They may be cooked on the outdoor grill on fire or done in the oven. Broiling them imparts the smoky flavor to some extent.
Traditionally the Bharta is served as a side dish with any kind of Indian flatbreads, may be along with a dal and raita. But it is good as a dip or a spread too.
Baingan Ka Bharta: Smoky and Spiced Eggplant Mash
Ingredients: (serves 2-4)
- 4 long eggplants (the Asian kind, Chinese or Japanese – medium sized)
- 2.5 tablespoon oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3/4 cup diced onions (do not chop them too small – about 1/4 inch squares are good)
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 3-5 hot chili peppers (remove membrane and seeds if you do not like it spicy – the peppers are vital for flavor)
- 3/4 cup chopped or grated fresh tomatoes – adjust amount to taste. The more tomato you use, the bharta will be a bit tart and reddish in color
- 1/2 tablespoon julienned fresh ginger
- salt to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder/cayenne/paprika
- 1/2 cup shelled/frozen peas (optional)
- a lot of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
Note: A lot of recipes use garam masala for this dish. I do not use any strong spices as I like the smoky flavor and would not have it overpowered by a spice. If you want to use extra spices, there is nothing stopping you.
Peas are sometimes used with this dish; in a little quantity. They add some color, texture and nutrition.
Roasting the eggplants:
If you have a gas cook top, smear some oil on the each eggplant and place each of them straight on the burner, at medium flame, allowing the skin to get charred and blackened and turning them so all sides are done. The inside will be soft and mushy. by just placing the eggplant straight on the burner and keeping the flame on low setting. Watch out when the eggplant seems to “wilt”. It means it is done.
Eggplants may be grilled on the outdoor grill too. Smear oil on the skin and cook by turning the eggplants to cook all sides until the outside is charred and inside is cooked and soft.
To cook in the oven, preheat oven to 400 F. Slice eggplant in halves, lengthwise and sprinkle some salt on the fleshy side. Smear some oil on both sides and roast flesh side down 25-30 minutes, or until tender. Broil it after it is roasted for about 5 – 7 minutes. This imparts the smoky flavor and also changes the color of the eggplants.
After the eggplants are cooked, place them in a ziploc bag or a bowl with a cover. Let them cool. Peel off and discard the charred skin. Mash or use the food processor to puree the roasted flesh and keep aside.
Cooking the Bharta:
Heat a heavy bottomed pan. Add the rest of the oil and when the oil is hot and shimmers, add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the onion, garlic, hot chili peppers. Cook at high heat for a couple of minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
Add the ginger, tomatoes, (the peas – if you are using them), turmeric, salt, chili powder and cook for 5 – 7 minutes in medium heat until tomatoes are cooked and the oil separates. Add the eggplants and stir and toss well. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the mashed eggplants are well combined with the spice mix in the pan.
Remove from heat. Add the fresh cilantro/coriander when ready to serve.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves: 2 – 4 as side dish