Punjabi Baingan ka Bharta

Baingan ka Bharta divides the world into two classes – eaters and non-eaters. While some people relish its smoky flavour, others find nothing appetizing about the pulpy eggplant. If you further analyse the two groups, you will find an interesting pattern. While women are big fans of this mashed eggplant dish resembling the middle-eastern Baba Ganoush, the ‘non-eaters’ are generally men and my family ‘was’ no different.  Hence, after marriage, I would not cook Bharta very often but whenever I did, Mr. Hubby would find an excuse to not eat. However, when I made Bharta last week, I successfully convinced him(not giving any other options for dinner) to at least try. And to my surprise, Mr. Hubby finished dinner describing it as delectable.

A good recipe can produce great results that can convert a non-eater into a fan. Are you up for the challenge?
For many years, I experimented with Baingan Ka Bharta but it would never taste as good as Mum’s. And then suddenly one day, I did the obvious. I checked the recipe with Mum. I realized that I was roasting the eggplants for too long, adding too many spices, and then again overcooking the finished dish. When it comes to making a good Baingan ka Bharta, ‘less is more’.

The recipe below comes from Mum and gives delicious results without fail.

You can roast the eggplant directly on the flame or in the oven. Though cooking on the flame will give you the best smoky flavour, I have shown here the oven method.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2-3 big cloves of garlic
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • handful of coriander leaves
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • spices – coriander powder, turmeric( optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp Ghee(optional)

Method:

  1. Wash the eggplants nicely. Always choose the eggplants that have tight, shiny skin. I am using the lebanese eggplants available here but in India, you get round big eggplants known as bharte ka baingan (eggplant for bharta).IMG_8579
  2. If you have a gas stove top, roast the whole eggplant directly over flame until it gets charred. Once one side is cooked, turn it to cook the other side. The eggplant may release some liquid and you may need some thorough cooking of your gas burners.IMG_8580
  3. If you do not have a gas burner, you can use the oven to roast the eggplant. Pre-heat the oven at its highest temperature. Place the eggplants in a baking tray lined with baking paper (eggplants release lot of liquid). Once the oven is hot, carefully place the baking tray in the oven and cook using the grill option until the eggplants look charred. Again remember to turn them to get even cooking. If you over roast the egg plants, you will be left with very little pulp. So, remember the mantra: less is more.IMG_8584
  4. While the eggplants are cooking, finely chop all other ingredients.IMG_8604
  5. Once the eggplants cool down, remove the skin and the stem and keep the pulp. Mash the pulp using a spoon to get an even texture.
  6. In a pan, heat 2 tbsp oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds.IMG_8605
  7. Once the  cumin seeds crackle, lower the heat to medium and add the garlic.IMG_8606
  8. Next add the ginger and green chillies.IMG_8607
  9. Once the ginger and garlic has slightly browned, add the onion. IMG_8608
  10. Cook until the onion is translucent. Do not brown the onion.IMG_8609
  11. Next stir-in the tomatoes. IMG_8610
  12. When the tomatoes start getting mushy, add 1tsp coriander powder. You can also add pinch of turmeric. My Mum’s recipe does not include it. You can also add red chilli powder if you like. I have not added it as the heat of green chillies is enough.IMG_8614
  13. Cook the spices for 2 minutes and then add the mashed eggplant. IMG_8615
  14. Mix it well. Add salt.IMG_8616
  15. Cook on medium flame for 5-8 min. You will see the eggplant change texture as it gets cooked. Overcooking will make the bharta will make it dry, less is more.IMG_8617
  16. Finish by adding chopped coriander leaves. Drizzle one tsp ghee before serving to enhance the flavour.IMG_8620

Serve the bharta piping hot with phulkas/rice. Add boondi ka raita or Tuar Dal to complete the meal. I like to eat my bharta mixed with rice, topping it up with some bhujia/sev. Strange combination? Try it.

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