Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

Baingan Bartha is a vegetarian dish from Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is a Bhurta (minced vegetables) made from eggplant (Baigan), which is grilled on direct fire to impart a smoky flavor to the flesh of the eggplant and then cooked with spices and vegetables. The eggplant is then mashed and seasoned with fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) for a clean flavor. To bring up the heat, I tempered the mustard seeds and then fried up some fresh chile.   Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, if you want to cool your palette and serve with a side of Basmati brown rice.

Jump over Pakistan into Afghanistan, and you will find a variation of this eggplant curry, called bonjan salad. It too, is grilled eggplant that is softened to a point where the pulp just melts off and is then mashed with fresh garlic. This is usually eaten at room temperature with flat Afghan bread as an appetizer, along with main dishes.
I love the way food- in particular, eggplant has traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent and slowly morphed its way into varying recipes. If you think about it, we all share a connection to one another. Sometimes, just as food appears so different, the core is the same- the foundation of Baingan Bartha is the same a the Bonjon. As we move along through life, and meet people we become the sum of all parts- forgetting that we all share a connection to one another- a foundation. Our influences, adorn us- make us special and individuate us, but foods keep us connected to the superluminal connectedness of all things that are beyond our immediate perception.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
4 ounces button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red Chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Brush the skin of both the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the oil and prick with a fork. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and saute the mustard seeds for 2 minutes, until they begin to pop. Take care not to splash the oil.
  3. Add the scallions, mushrooms, crushed garlic and chopped chili and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh briefly with a fork.
  5. Add the mashed eggplant and chopped cilantro to the saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve garnish with cilantro sprigs.

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