This curry is perfect for a Saturday curry festival. I love BB, its surely one of my favourite Indian dishes and is always a delight. This is one of those recipes that I will surely be cooking for the rest of my days. When we look at Indian recipes, they can look a bit long, but most of the ingredients are spices and when you break it down, this is a very straightforward recipe and packed with gorgeous smoky flavours.
Baingan Bharta is eaten all over India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Its like an Indian version of Babaganoush (or is Babaganoush a Mediterranean version of BB?). There are many variations, they use plenty of mustard oil in West Bengal of course and it is eaten in many parts of the sub-continent at weddings. Brinjals (Aubergine) in India normally come in quite a small size, but its alot easier and convenient in Europe to use the larger varieties of aubs for this dish, more delightful aubergine flesh and less skin to deal with. You can imagine that traditionally, a warm flatbread is the best accompaniment to this dish.
IS IT A DIP?
Some would call BB a dip, but I cannot get to grips with the word dip. Especially for something so majestically tasty as BB or Babaganoush. I always think of a supermarket bought ’90’s style dip medley’ (those four shades of dodgy dips that come in plastic trays) and these dishes are light years away from that kind of fare. BB has serious heritage and is a feast in puree form.
Because aubergine breaks down so much when cooked, this seems like one (only one I may add) of the finest ways of treating an aubergine. In Turkey they do amazing things to aubergines and its known as the ‘Sultan’ of vegetables. In Wales we’ll call it the ‘Tribe Leader’ of vegetables! I made a version of Babaganoush a couple of days ago and will post it somewhere soon. You can never have too much aubergine on one blog! Impossible!!
I like to caramelise the aubergine in the pan, making it stick to the bottom a little. A crust will form, this is fine and adds to the richness and depth to the sauce. Just make sure that it doesn’t burn too much! As with so many recipes, the pan scrapings are the best bits for making sauces/ gravy, basically concentrated flavours.
Traditionally Baingan Bharta is made a little like Babaganoush in that the aubergines are cooked over open flames. Unfortunately, in the Beach House Kitchen we have an electric hob. No open flames, so this technique is a decent option and more straightforward. It also means that you get the benefits of all the goodness found in aubergine skins.
If you are getting a BBQ going this summer, I cannot recommend smoking a load of aubergines highly enough. The flavour is wonderful and you can always freeze any excess aubs. This gives you the base ingredient to make either of these delicious vegan dishes. I mentioned on twitter recently that there is nothing as decadent as a well roasted aubergine and a few of you commented that you can probably think of a few things slightly more decadent. This is probably true! But aubergines to me are a sensational veg, especially for a vegan. They have so many qualities, a wonderful vegetal creaminess and when mixed with something rich like olive oil or tahini, for example, I’ve got one foot in Nirvana.
G.M. CROPS IN INDIA
Genetically Modified (G.M.) crops are becoming a huge problem in India as large multi-national agriculture businesses, with a myriad affiliates and branches, try to introduce GM crops to India. There are many people fighting against this unnatural invasion, one of the main spokesperson in Vandana Shiva. In 2011 to protest against the introduction of GM Brinjal (Aubergine) into India, the Meridien Hotel and Greenpeace volunteers in Delhi cooked a world record 342 kilograms of organic aubergine and presented a portion of the dish to the president at the time, Manmohan Singh. A very tasty protest!
A RADIANT DAY ON THE HILL
Its a lovely day up here on Tiger Hill and Jane is facilitating a Woman’s Workshop, so I am home alone. Jane has been working really hard on her new website this week, Womans Wheel. It looks beautiful! I’m off for a walk up ‘Myndd Mawr‘ (Big Mountain, also called Elephant mountain because it looks like a massive sleeping Elephant or ‘Yr Eliffat’) and will then plant Percy, our new Snowdon Pear Tree in the garden. We’ve picked a nice sunny spot for him. I’m also making tofu today and am seeking a nice firm tofu texture. I’m going for a different salt to coagulate the beans and hopefully this will help. Homemade tofu is really easy and cost effective, I’ll post the recipe soon. Anyone got any top tips for homemade tofu?
JO POTT SUPPER CLUB
We had a delicious meal at Jo Pott’s last night. Each month Jo puts on a fantastic five course menu, served in a very cosy and stylish attic space above her cafe in the Kiffin area of Bangor. Last night, the theme was South Asia and we enjoyed all kinds of traditional delicacies with a twist. I loved the Aduki, rice and ginger balls and I think Jane was quite taken with the Watermelon and Vodka crush (which I ate half of because Jane was driving). The Lentil Cakes in Citrus Broth was also really interesting. Jo’s food is always creative and looks beautiful. Jo does this every month and the fact that Jane and I could sit down to a 5 course vegan meal in a beautiful space was a real treat. Nice one Jo!
The Bits – For 2
2 large aubergines (cut into chunky batons)
4 medium tomatoes (roughly diced)
4 cloves garlic
3 cm fresh ginger (finely chopped)
1 medium onion (finely sliced)
1 teas mustard seeds
2 1/2 teas ground cumin seeds (1 teas ground)
3 teas coriander seeds (1 ½ teas ground)
1 teas turmeric
2 teas sweet paprika
1 chilli (finely diced or 1/3 teas chilli powder)
1/2 teas asafoetida
1 -2 teas sea salt
3 tbs oil
Fresh coriander (or sprouted lentils as we used)
On a medium heat, add your coriander seeds to a pan, toast for two minutes and then add your cumin seeds and toast for one more minute, until fragrant and slightly brown. Bash up well in pestle and mortar. Use ground spices if you’re in a hurry.
In the same pan, add 2 tbs of cooking oil on a medium high heat and fry the aubergines. Stir/ toss them regularly and add 1 teas salt. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until nicely soft and well caramelised. They will stick to the bottom a bit, but this is perfect. That crust equals deep flavour. Set the aubs aside and cover with a plate.
Now put the pan back on the heat and add your tomatoes to the remaining oil on a high heat, stir them well and try to scrape up the aubergine crust to combine with the tomatoes. Fry for around 5 minutes. Set aside and cover.
Wipe out the pan and add 1 tbs of oil and on a medium heat, fry your mustard seeds for 30 seconds, they will pop a little, then add your onions and lower heat slightly. Cook the onions until they are becoming golden, 8 minutes, then add your garlic, chilli and ginger, cook for three minutes, then your spices hit the pan, stir them well, not allowing the spices to stick to the bottom, add 1 tbs of water if this happens. Saute for two minutes and then add your tomatoes, aubergine and 125 ml water and cover cook on a fast simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.
We love it with fresh, homemade super simple chapattis (recipe here). They are really easy once you get into a flow. We also love Baingan Bharta with pulao and pickles, or with daal, why not go the whole shebang and get a Indian feast together, Beetroot Raita and all. It is Saturday night almost after all!
Aubergine is just one of those veggies that has it all, good lucks, charisma, tastiness, and dashing nutritional properties. I love all veggies and when I learn about their nutritional benefits to body and mind, I get even more excited.
Aubergine has loads of dietary fibre, which is amazing for the digestive system and is one of the most important factors in detoxifying our body. Vitamins are important, fibre equally so.
Aub is a nightshade, like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Called ‘eggplant’ in many parts of the world, I think the coolest type of aubergine is surely the ‘graffiti’ aubergine, with its purple, speckled skin.
Aubergine is a good source of B1 and B6, potassium, copper and magnesium.