Image: Wikipedia Commons
Cooking a hated vegetable dangerously. This is what the Significant Someone would say if he saw me now. But my policy is: the one who is not here doesn’t get a say in what’s for dinner. So I do it my way. Or rather Madhur’s way. Dangerously cooking a plum purple aubergine on an open gas fire! Praying I don’t burn the house down (I suddenly remember that I was born a Catholic). Making baigan bharta, the Punjabi dish of aubergines, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, onions and chilies. Flavoured with a generous sprinkle of coriander. Yum!
Apart from the danger element, simplicity is the name of the game. Simple spicing and flavour, but utterly delectable results. This is my second try at it. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t have the nerve to cook it properly the first time around. Yes, I copped out, and baked it in the oven on high heat. And that was fine, but it didn’t have that characteristic charred taste. Still very nice, if you don’t have a gas hob.
And the danger? It really is not half as bad as it sounds. The first time I cooked this, I watched it like a hawk, but after I realised I wasn’t going to burn my home down, I relaxed. Still, be watchful and careful if you cook it on the gas hob.
This is my entry for my event Eating with the Seasons – July. Aubergines are in season in Britain at the moment. Enjoy them!
Beautiful flower, isn’t it.
Image: Aubergine flower (Wikipedia Commons)
Baigan Bharta – Indian Aubergine Pate
SOURCE: Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Flavours of India’, my wording
PREPARATION TIME: 5 min
COOKING TIME: about 20 – 30 min
CUISINE: Indian (Punjabi)
SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish
1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cm peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
3 green chilies
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I tend to leave it out)
1/2 can plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
3 – 4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1. Wash your aubergine and wipe it clean. Remove the stem, and prick it with a knife a few times. Now this step is vital. If you fail to do this, you may have a hot and dangerous aubergine bomb exploding all over your kitchen!
2. Place the aubergine on top of a burning gas flame, and cook moving around until charred. Or simply bake it in the oven until soft to touch. Leave to cool, and then peel.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan until it starts sizzling when you dip a wooden spoon into it. Then throw in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, and when they’ve released their lovely warm aroma, add the onions.
4. When they turn golden, add the garlic, ginger and green chilies. Fry for two minutes until the ginger and garlic mellow a little.
5. Add the tomatoes and cayenne if using it, and season with salt. Cook the tarka (the tomato and onion mixture here) until it becomes shiny dark orange and the oil starts oozing out.
6. Now add the chopped aubergine and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables come together. You can do this for a bit longer if you wish.
7. Add the fresh coriander, stir and remove from heat.
I sometimes add a touch of garam masala at the end.
Serve it with any Indian meal, or even as a dip at parties, or a delicious spread on crusty bread.
This is a lovely way of cooking aubergine. Fragrant, and rather fresh tasting. Mildly spiced, so that the flavour of vegetables really come into their own.
Other aubergine recipes at Maninas:
This lovely relish is probably the most popular condiment of the former Yugoslavia.