Baigan Bharta : Roasted Eggplant Curry from Punjab
My grandma was what you might call a Baigan Bharta snob and she had every right to be I guess, she made the best ever Baigan Bharta.
First there was the matter of the brinjal itself: it had to be deep purple in color, round and big in size but had to be light in weight. The brinjal is the star of this dish and she made all the effort to pick the best one possible. Then came the roasting of the brinjal. If the brinjal wasn't roasted enough the flavour was not vibrant enough and it would displease her and if the brinjal was roasted more than required, it would be declared burnt and must not be eaten.
Then would come the issue of color. One look at the bharta was all she needed to declare it good or not good at all. The color had to reddish with the use of tomatoes and chilli powder, if it was brownish that means you didn't put enough tomatoes and that was a mortal sin according to her.
The spices came in next. The only spice ever allowed to be put in the bharta was jeera seeds (though she preferred to make without), salt and chilli powder. Her point was that the gas-roasted brinjal flavour is what should shine only balanced by the slight crunch of onions and the tang of tomatoes. No haldi, no coriander would ever be allowed to touch the bharta. In winters, she would add the freshly peeled tender peas just before the bharta was being switched off and let the dish cook in its own heat, turning the bharta into pure joy when eaten with dal and phulka.
Thankfully, this was one dish I learnt from her and today I'm sharing its recipe with you guys. The authentic Punjabi Baigan Bharta.
- Coat the eggplants with a little oil and roast them directly on the flame until completely charred from all sides. The key is to blacken all sides on the surface and keep rotating the brinjal for even cooking. This will take about 6-7 minutes, poke the brinjal with knife or fork to check if it is done.
- Once the brinjals are done, dip them in a deep bowl filled with water. Leave for 5-10 minutes and then peel off all the blackened skin. Dipping in water makes them easier to peel.
- Mash the flesh using a potato masher, discard the stem, and keep the mash aside till needed.
- In a heavy bottom pan, heat the ghee and add jeera seeds. When they turn brown, add onions and fry till translucent.
- Add the tomatoes at this age and cook on low flame till they are fully cooked. Add salt and chilli powder and mix well. Add the mashed brinjal to it and roast for another 5 minutes. At this stage, add the peas if using. Mix, turn off the gas and cover the pan. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with dal, phulka and green salad.