Short Story Time!
“I nailed it,” I said to my husband when he answered my call. I was referring to my Baingan Bharta recipe, of course – the one I tried countless times but never seemed to achieve to perfection. The next couple of minutes were spent with me detailing how delicious it turned out. After we hung up, I wondered if I overhyped it and if it would live up to how much I bragged about it. I quickly shrugged that thought though. Hopefully not…
Later that night, I hurriedly glanced at him in an attempt to read his facial expression after his first bite. “You nailed it,” he nodded, smiling with enthusiasm. Then he spent the next couple of minutes detailing how delicious it was (without any coercion 😉 ).
Moral of the Story – Baingan Bharta Wins!
Baingan Bharta is a prized Indian and Pakistani dish. It consists of fire-roasted eggplant in a delicately spiced dry curry. Think Baba Ghanoush with a bit more sass.
Like Tandoori Chicken, it was traditionally prepared in a tandoor or a charcoal oven. But no worries, we can get the same smoky flavor in our grills and ovens.
A few tips on how you can nail it too:
- Choose an eggplant that seems light for its size. Those are the ones with fewer seeds and therefore less bitterness.
- To make sure you get the distinct, smoky, oomph factor of this dish, be sure to broil or grill the eggplant until it’s completely soft from the inside and lightly burnt on the outside. Toward the end, there will be a smoky aroma coming from the oven. Don’t worry, you’re not burning the house down. It’s all part of the plan. 🙂
- Baingan Bharta doesn’t need to be enhanced with extra spice powders like cumin and coriander. The smoked eggplant takes center stage.
As if it doesn’t win enough already, this dish is as healthy as it is delicious. Deep colored fruits and vegetables like eggplants are rich in antioxidants. Eggplants are also full of fiber and contain many B-complex vitamins, making them especially great for vegetarians and vegans.
Smoked Eggplant Curry | Restaurant-Style Baingan Bharta
- 2 small globe variety eggplants (about 1000 grams in total)
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 2 tbsp neutral oil such as canola or grapeseed
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 small tomatoes finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1/2- inch piece ginger crushed
- 1 small green chili pepper sliced or chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 red chili powder or more to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1/2 tsp juice of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp garam masala optional
Oven Broiler Method
Set your oven rack so that your eggplants will be as close as possible to the heat source. Preheat your broiler on High, and roast the eggplants on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes, turning midway. The skin will blacken and the eggplant will burst a little.
Grill over very high heat, turning constantly, for about 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and blackened.
Once the eggplant cools down (you can place it in a bowl of water to speed this up) peel the blackened skin, remove the stem and coarsely mash its flesh. I like to do this using the "pulse" function of my food processor. Set aside.
Heat ghee and oil in a skillet a little over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. They will start to sputter. Immediately add the onion and sauté until slightly golden, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté until the raw smell disappears, or about 15-20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until they're soft and the oil starts to leave the sides, about 3-5 minutes. Add a bit of water (if needed so the spices don't get burnt) and add the salt and spice powders (paprika, red chili, turmeric) except the garam masala.
Add the mashed eggplant and green chili peppers and cook, stirring often, until it is well cooked and becomes mushy like a purée, about 8-10 minutes.Taste and adjust oil, salt or paprika (for more color) as needed.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped cilantro leaves. Sprinkle lemon juice and garam masala over it. Serve with naan, roti or other bread. I like to eat it with some yogurt on the side to add some coolness to the dish.