Friday, October 18, 2013

Baigan Bharta

Bharta Papa owned a Vespa scooter. A blue LML Vespa dx, with silver rims. For someone living in a small town of central India, that was sort of a matter of pride. Even though after Papa and mummy took their seats there was practically no room left for a seven and four-year-old to squeeze in but we somehow made room and we were very proud of that scooter. We have so many childhood memories attached to that little blue wonder wheels of ours.
But one day for some reason my parents decided there's need for a change. It might have something to do with my 4' 3" brother sitting on a tiny seat right in front of papa while he would drive, but they decided that we as a family need to graduate to a car. They brought home a second hand Fiat car. I really can't recall what model it was but I do remember me looking at it for the first time and thinking, boy this is a beauty! It was after that car came into our lives was when the real fun began. It sure stopped at some of the most random places and Papa would ask my brother and I to hop out and push, but by then we were big and strong enough to do that and we did not mind it a bit. Nothing can beat the pride of being one of the few kids in your class whose dad owned a car, right? And then those road trips to grandma's house, long drives and picnics.

Eggplants
There used to be a hanuman temple on top of a mountain and right on the foothills ran a beautiful river. So most summer Sundays would begin with a drive up to the hanuman temple and then a lunch picnic by the river. Mummy and aunts would either take the kids for a hike or we would play in the river with our dog and dads would be in charge of food.

Raw Ingredients
Papa would generally cook his chicken curry on campfire. Uncles would make batti (thick wheat bread) and baigan bharta. A very simple recipe but carried a punch. It would start with eggplants being covered under hot ashes until almost cooked and then charred on direct flame. Peeled, mashed and mixed with chopped onion, tomato, hot chili, cilantro and salt. That's it! A recipe doesn't get simpler than that but the smokiness of charred eggplant skin married with the heat from chili was just a party in your mouth.

Baigan Bharta
The Baigan Bharta recipe I am sharing today is not exactly the same as what uncles made 20 years back but it still brings back those memories.

Ingredients: Serves 4
1 medium sized eggplants (approx. 1lb)
2-3 garlic cloves (whole, peeled)
2 thai green chili (adjust per taste)
2 tablespoon cooking oil (I use mustard but any other oil is fine too)
1 pinch asafetida
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 cup onion (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup tomato (chopped)
1/2 cup green peas
1 cup potato (boiled, peeled, coarsely mashed)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)

Method:
Wash the eggplant clean. Make shallow slits. Press whole garlic cloves and chili in the cuts.
Roast it over direct flame, turning on intervals until the inside is cooked through and outside is charred. Once done, place in a deep dish or bowl and cover with lid.

Another way of cooking the eggplants is to wrap it with aluminum foil. Place on lower rack of oven. Bake for approximately 3 hours at 400 deg. F until fully cooked. Pull out of the over. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Finish charring on direct flame. Once done, place in a deep dish or bowl and cover with lid.

Once eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel the skin out. Coarsely mash the flesh and set aside for later.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Add asafetida followed by cumin and mustard seeds. As they sputter, add onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes until they begin to get translucent.

Add turmeric, coriander, garam masala. Quick stir. Add tomato. Cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes melt and form a loose paste.

Turn heat to medium low. Add green peas. Cook until tender.

Add salt, potatoes and cooked eggplant. Stir to mix well. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Uncover. Add cilantro. Stir well. Turn off heat. Serve with hot naans or roti.

25 comments:

  1. Hi Prerna,

    I was smiling when I read about the Vespa story. I'll write a post on my Baba's two wheelers too. You reminded me of some memories almost tucked away to a dark corner. The way you cooked the bharta is a little different than what we Bengalis do. But the fun is, baingan bharta tastes delicous in whatever way you cook it. Looks like the picnics used to a great fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, our dads and their scooters :-)

      Delete
  2. Wonderful memories and tasty dish!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Rosa. You are very kind!

      Delete
  3. I love baigan bharta.. beautiful clicks and vespa story is awesome, I remembered rides on my dad's bajaj ... Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can relate to everything! The scooter, the car that stops, and the baigan bharta! I took a trip down memory lane with you :) Gorgeous pictures and one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant, I am going to try your recipe for dinner.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a lovely, evocative post. I don't make bharta with potatoes and peas, but know that the ingredients are a classic combination, especially in Gujarati cooking. I will have to try your inviting recipe out! X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deena, I never ate baigan bharta with potatoes and peas either, growing up. But when I added it to my recipe I felt it married well together. So have been doing it for the past few years :-) Hope you like it!

      Delete
  6. 3 hours at 400 degrees? Surely not.
    I want to make this though! (its sounds divine)

    margueritecore [at] gmail [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get the same reaction every time I tell this to people. But the eggplants need to be completely cooked to the point that it falls apart. So yes, it will take 400deg for 3 hrs :-)

      Delete
    2. Prerna, thank you so much for answering me! I so much want to make this dish but was putting it off until I made sure. It sounds so wonderful. I trust you (!) though now I wonder how I'm going to handle the mushy eggplant for the charring phase. If only I had a grill. ::sigh:: What if I took the foil wrapped eggplant and kind of laid that gently on the stove burner?

      Delete
  7. I share very similar memories with my dad's scooter. Childhood was definitely the highlight in our lives :)

    Comforting bharta!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I remember my chacha bought a brand new maruti 800 (when it was A DEAL to have one) and when we used to go on vacation, my cousins would be so proud of it. They talked about it endlessly as if it was a person. So good to read a post from you. Don't make us miss you so often. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha.. That's funny! I feel you are talking about my brother who felt my dad was some kind of a super hero because he owned a "car" ;-)

      Delete
  9. I went through my whole life not eating baingan bharta and when I finally (recently) did - I couldnt believe how good it is. I've made some myself since then. The smokiness is definitely part of the appeal.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I do love your blog! The memories that you share are so inviting and I close my eyes and put myself there watching the family on the scooter rush by, in the Indian summer heat, dressed in bright clothes! Then the little fiat and the children proudly pushing their papas car to get it started again! But best of all family picnics with food made with men's hands! Thank you for a peek into life in India. I would love to buy your cook book is it available yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello there,

      Thanks so much! I'm SO glad I could succeed taking you on a small trip to India :-) Yes the book is available on Amazon and also at major book stores across the country.

      Delete
  11. That's a very well written story, I can almost imagine it! Where did you grow up? The family loves baigan bharta, but I've never been a fan, possibly because of the ewww baigan syndrome! *ashamed*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been in those shoes years ago but slowly the taste grew on me I guess. I grew up in a small town in Central India (M.P). How about you?

      Delete
  12. I was looking for an eggplant dish for an upcoming party we're hosting and tried this dish. Let me just say it never left my home! So, so good. Thanks for posting and keep the great recipes coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay!! I'm glad it did not leave home. Best compliment ever :-)

      Delete
  13. I'm new to cooking Indian food, but love it! Thanks for this recipe, my husband and I really enjoyed it and I'm planning to make it often. I've already shared with a vegetarian friend!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Cafe POA delivers Simple Menu App for Restaurants, Hotels and Food stores. Simple integration with Social Media, existing POS e.g. Aloha as well as Payment Systems to increase sales, improve quality, enhance customer engagement and increase revenue.
    http://www.cafepoa.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/cafepoa

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just stumbled upon your blog - what a gorgeous site you have! The pictures are beautiful and the recipes look amazing. I will definitely give some a try. Just wanted to send my appreciation. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails