BAINGAN KA BHARTA

by Shumaila

I am getting better at things. More quick. I was done with preparing lunch, sweeped and mopped the kitchen floor, loaded Jaywanti (our dishwasher) – I usually wait till night for this- but today I had time on my hand. I also set the table and after no more excuses left to not take a bath- I took a shower too. All this, in less than two hours! For me, this is an achievement. I remember, during my first few weeks of marriage, I used to struggle getting the food ready just in time for V to come home for lunch. The kitchen used to be a mess and I, too, used to be one. But, now, I have become more comfortable with cooking Indian and thus, more efficient (self pat on my back!) :).

Now, V has a list of favorite food. He can eat the same thing day in and day out for days, weeks and months. The list includes: arhar ki dal (yellow lentil curry), baingan ka bharta (roasted eggplant cooked with spices), biryani (a rice based dish), bhindi (okra). And when I say that he can eat these dishes day in and day out, I mean it. He used to do that when he was a bachelor. He does the same when he goes back home. The dal is made everyday and the bhindi and the baingan ka bharta alternated during his stay.

V’s favorite things made me wonder, what’s my list? What things can I eat again n again without getting bored. And, I realized, even my favorite of favorite things- I can’t repeat them more than two consecutive times, max three times. After the third time, I would need a change. I need variety. But, yes, there are a few things that do come close to things I could eat repeatedly- (I am not including chocolates, cakes, cookies here- talking about stuff that I could eat as a meal). My list is:

1. Maggi noodles

2. Parantha made out of leftover dal (a flat Indian bread made from leftover cooked lentils and whole wheat flour)

3. Chilli chicken (dry)

4. Dal makhani (black lentil curry cooked in lots of butter)

Now, one look at V’s and my list, and you would know why I am the size I am, and why V is the size he is. He likes all the healthy stuff. The food I like is not unhealthy per se (agreed, the Maggi is unhealthy), but it surely is fattening!

So, when I started cooking, I thought of cooking what V likes, that ways I too get into the habit of eating healthier. It hasn’t worked completely. I still eat more chocolate than he does. I also snack more, when he is in office and I am alone at home! But, overall, its an improvement. I have warmed up to healthier vegetables like bitter gourd and eggplant, and to food like yellow lentil curry- things I never ate before- things that my mom is shocked to learn I ‘willingly’ make in my home!

So, today I made baingan ka bharta. Its an Indian dish made with roasted eggplant that is cooked with some onions, tomatoes and other Indian spices. The key to good baingan bharta lies in the smoky flavor you get after roasting it. Roasting can be done either directly on the gas flame or by basting the eggplant with some oil and leaving it in the oven at the highest setting for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin gets the burnt color and starts peeling off slightly. This time I tried roasting the eggplant directly on the flame but the next time I’ll try broiling it in the oven. It’s just less messier that ways!

Also, a lot of the recipes I saw, called for mustard oil. But, since its banned in the US for human consumption- supposedly because of its high content of erucic acid, which is considered noxious, I used vegetable oil. I still don’t know how unsafe it is to use mustard oil, though, generations in our family have used it and, touch wood, faced no problems. Some forums, do mention that heating the mustard oil to a smoking temperature does reduce the noxious substances. I feel its just a matter of buying from a reputed manufacturer.

Lot of people also make this dish with peas, but I did not have any on hand, plus, I am not that big a fan. But, feel free to add!

BAINGAN KA BHARTA

INGREDIENTS

2 eggplants

4 tbsp oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)

14 cloves of garlic, minced (I like the garlic taste in it so the amount is on the higher side, if you are not a big fan, you can reduce the quantity)

1 inch piece ginger

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, or 2 small onions, finely chopped

2-3 green chillies, slit

3-4 tsp coriander leaves

Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Baste eggplant with a little oil. Roast the eggplants on direct flame,  or in a preheated oven at 500°F for 15-20 minutes, until the skin of the eggplant looks burnt.

Remove the skin, and chop finely. The eggplant, if roasted properly, will mash easily while chopping.

Peel the ginger and garlic. Mince the garlic with the ginger.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and sauté till light golden.

Add the minced garlic-ginger and let cook for a few seconds.

Add the onions. Sauté for few minutes.

Add the chopped green chillies, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder. Mix thoroughly.

Add the tomatoes. Cook on slow flame until the oil starts separating.

Mix in the eggplant with the rest of the ingredients. Add the salt and let cook for another few minutes.

Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with either chapattis or as a side dish to rice!