Cooked some killer Baingan ka Bharta the other day. This is a recipe I’ve constantly kept tweaking over the years and I think I’m now at a stage where I’m finally happy with it.
Large Eggplant / Aubergine (roughly the size of a bottle of Jagermeister) – 2 nos
Garlic – 1 pod
Dry Red Chili – 6
Mustard Oil – 1 tbsp
Ingredients for the Masala:
Onion – 2 medium sized, chopped
Cumin seeds – 1.5 tsp
Tomato – 2, chopped
Green Chili – 3
Ginger Garlic Paste – 1.5 tsp
Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Amchur (dry mango powder) – 2 tsp
Mustard Oil – 1 tbsp
Duracell battery (AAA) – 0
Cut your garlic into long thin slices. Break the red chillies into smaller pieces. Wash the eggplants and make vertical slits all over the body like a damn psycho, and start pushing the garlic and chili into the gaps. Repeat the process till the eggplants begin to look like prehistoric war weapons. Transfer to a baking tray, drizzle mustard oil over, and plonk in the oven at 180 for 20 minutes.
Normally, I would do this over an open flame. The idea is to char the outside of the aubergine and cook the inside completely. I have an induction stove, so the oven is the next best thing. The absolute BEST thing though, is if you can do this step over coals. That is the best damn thing in the world and your Bharta will taste pretty frickin’ amazing. Anyway.. back to the oven for now. 20 minutes in, flip the aubergines over and let the other side char for a bit. Another 20 min in the oven and you’re done. Take out the tray and let them baingans cool.
Get started on your masala. This part is simple. Heat mustard oil till smoky, throw in the cumin seeds followed by the onions and let them soften up. Cook the onions on high heat till they start to brown slightly. But only slightly, yo. You don’t want full on brown. As soon as the onions start showing some colour, add the ginger garlic paste. Cook on high heat for a minute and then throw in the tomatoes.
Cook on full blast heat – just like the do in a roadside dhaba – till the tomatoes soften up. Add the powdered spices and mix well. Add the slit green chilli now, and cook till the oil separates. It’s important that you add the chillies now, so that they still have that bright colour when you’re plating up.
Turn down the heat and focus your attention on the somewhat deflated aubergines. Peel off the skins carefully and discard. It’s not a massive deal if a little bit stays on but try and get all of it, you lazy buggers. Once you’ve undressed the aubergines, it’s time to chop ‘em up. Remove the stalks and using a nice big cleaver, chop the soft aubergines up till you have a nice mash. You’ll see that those fantastic bits of garlic and chilli have damn nearly melted and infused the whole vegetable with their flavours.
Transfer the mash to your pan and combine with the masala. Add salt and mix well. The dish is completely cooked now, but I like to let it sit with the masala on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Chop up some fresh coriander and chuck it on top. Serve with roti / chapati or stylishly spoon onto a toasted slice of brown bread.
I love this recipe because it reminds me of my lunches in Delhi. This is where I started tinkering with the recipe and this is where I really discovered the joys of cooking with mustard oil.
Keys to victory:
- Lots of garlic while roasting the aubergine
- Amchur / Dry mango powder – this gives the bharta a lovely hint of sourness
- Mustard Oil
Give it a shot and let me know what you think.
Over and out!