They say you can take a Punjabi out of India but not India out of a Punjabi. I have been living in Perth for a few years now but the Punjabi in me refuses to loose my penchant for all things Punjabi. I cook the usual fare at home more often than not and usually on days when I miss home. And the dish that spells out home for me is “Baingan Bharta” which is roasted Eggplants cooked in the Punjabi way.
Being a very North Indian dish there a few variations to it but all of them ask for the Eggplant to be roasted on a bed of coals or for the modern woman on a gas. There is a beautiful smokiness that the Eggplant gets after roasting and for me that is what gives it the distinctive flavor that we Punjabis love.
When I moved to Perth a few years ago I stayed in a rented apartment that had an Induction cook top which meant I could not roast the Eggplant. I had an Oven, but I find that the final dish never tastes the same. Now you can imagine how sad it made me knowing that I could not make this delicious dish.
So to take care of my Bharta blues I had to resort to finding restaurants in Perth that served it. Every restaurant I visited claimed to have it as a house specialty. So my first question to them would always be “How do you make it? ” and ofcourse they all reassured me of the authenticity of the Bharta and everytime I would be sorely disappointed. Till I moved to my own place where I had a proper gas and could allow myself the luxury.
Let me tell you that roasting an Eggplant on the gas can be a messy business with all the juices bursting from the Eggplant and running over your gas, making it a task to clean it all up later. So I put a Aluminum Foil on the surface of my fob and then go about with all the roasting business. Which means any juices that release fall on the foil.
It surely holds a special place on a Punjabi dinner table and is enjoyed with some hot Rotis sprinkled with some Ghee. I use the Leftover Bharta as a sandwich filling and it tastes superb too. I am sure you have your own way of making this but I hope you will try my way too.
Recipe (Cooking time 40 minutes, serves 4)
1 Large Eggplant
1 Large Onion chopped really finely.
2 Large Tomatoes chopped finely
1 large Green Chilli, sliced thinly
1 tsp Red Chilli powder
1 tsp Cumin powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Cumin seeds
Freshly chopped Coriander
1/2 cup Green peas (boiled)
1/2 tsp Clove Powder (This is a tip that Anshie from Spiceroots gave me to enhance the smokiness of the Eggplant)
Roasting the Eggplant:
Wash the Eggplant and Pat dry. If you are a cleanliness freak like me, line the base of your gas with some Aluminum foil before you put the Eggplant to roast. Coat the Eggplant with a little Oil and roast it well on a medium flame keeping a close eye making sure it does not burn and turning it around after every few minutes so it is cooked through.
You can also Roast the Eggplant in an oven however you will have to prick it with a knife in several place so it does spurt the juices all over your oven. Also cover it with Aluminum foil else you will have a burned mess. Once the Eggplant is roasted well, let it cool for a few minutes before you remove the Skin.
Mash the Eggplant into a pulp using a fork. It is easier to do this when the Eggplant is warm.
Cooking the Bhartha:
Heat oil in a Kadhai or a pan and add the Cumin seeds. Once they Splutter add the Onion and the Green chillies and cook till the Onions have been translucent.
Add the Tomatoes and cook will till the the Tomatoes start to release Oil and have mashed completely.
Add the mashed Egg plant, Salt, Cumin powder and Red chilli powder and mix well. Let it cook on a low flame for 5 – 7 minutes.
Add the boiled Green peas and cook for another 7 – 10 minutes.
Once the dish is cooked sprinkle the Clove powder and Green coriander.