For a really good baingan bharta, getting the eggplant perfectly roasted is half the battle won. And for a perfectly roasted eggplant, the ingredients you need most are patience and balance – patience in cooking the eggplant on a low, open flame through till the core, balancing the heat all around without charring, leaving no spot raw or burnt.
The proportion of other ingredients and spices, the duration of post-roasting sautéing, can vary, but if the heart of the dish – the mashed eggplant – is nicely done, baingan bharta turns out delicious.
With that thought, on to my baingan bharta recipe in all its smoky splendor :-)
- Eggplant (fat, large, purple) – 1
- Tomatoes – 3
- Onions – 2
- Ginger – 1/2 inch stick
- Garlic – 6 cloves
- Green chilies – 1 or 2
- Garam masala – 1/2 teaspoon
- Red chili flakes – 1/2 teaspoon
- Coriander powder – 1 teaspoon
- Cumin powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Salt – to taste
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Oil – 2 teaspoons
- Fresh coriander leaves – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
Two broad steps – preparing the ingredients before sautéing, and putting it all together with seasoning while sautéing.
1. Roast, peel, mash, chop
Roast the whole eggplant evenly till the skin is crackly and crumbles and falls off when touched. I do this by placing the eggplant on the gas burner on low flame, turning it at an angle every other minute till it is cooked through.
Let the roasted eggplant cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, finely chop ginger, garlic, green chilies, onions and tomatoes.
Moisten your palms with water and gently press the surface of the eggplant. The skin would crack open and fall apart and you’d be able to take all the skin off easily. No sweat if bits of stubborn skin remain stuck to the eggplant, they tend to add a nice smoked taste to the bharta.
You can now mash the roasted eggplant.
To Deseed Or Not? Sometimes the seeds of a large eggplant can alter the taste and appearance of the baingan bharta. If you do not mind the seeds, mash away without care. If you want to do away with the seeds, pry apart the roasted flesh carefully. You will find that the flesh separates in layers, with the seeds clinging to sections of the eggplant insides in bunches. Scoop out the seed-laden sections and discard.
I remove the seeds if they look biggish and hard, else I let them be in the bharta.
2. Put it all together
Heat oil in a non-stick pan. When hot, add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Follow with chopped ginger and garlic, fry till the garlic turns golden. Now add onions and chopped green chilies. Fry till the onions turn translucent.
Add coriander powder, cumin powder, red chili flakes and cook till the spices and onions are an even brown. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle salt.
Cook on medium-high flame till the tomatoes have turned mushy and blended well with the onions.
Add the mashed eggplant and garam masala to the pan.
Stir around, and using a kitchen masher or the back of a wooden spoon/spatula, mash the eggplant into the masala till all the ingredients and flavors have fused.
Cook for 8-10 minutes after adding the mashed eggplant.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve baingan bharta with chapatis, dal and yogurt.
For a no-onion-no-garlic variant of this recipe, check out Aloo Baingan Bharta.