Flame roasted aubergines cooked with garlic, onions, green chillies and tomatoes; a comforting vegan and gluten free dish.
‘Baingan ka bharta’ literally means mashed aubergine, a term that hardly does justice to this classic dish. The process of flame roasting the aubergines imparts a wonderful smokey flavour that makes it one of my family’s all-time favourites.
There are many regional variations and names given to baingan ka bharta; it’s cooked all over India. I often cook it in Punjabi style with minimal spices. In Maharashtra , at my ancestral home, this dish is known as ‘vangyache bharit’ and made using green aubergines fresh from the farm. The green aubergines are roasted in the embers of a wood-fired cooker called a ‘chul’ and then seasoned with oil, garlic and herbs. But I digress; here, I am sharing my take on Punjabi ‘Baingan ka bharta’ and I cook it in my minimalistic way.
The key ingredient for this mash is the aubergines; it calls for a variety with flesh that becomes soft and mushy when roasted . Large purple aubergines are ideal, but in the UK we often find that these are full of moisture, lacking flavour and with very few seeds, which for me, are the tastiest part. So I like to use long baby aubergines here because their seeds are packed with flavour and they have just the right texture, soft but not watery. You will usually find these long baby aubergines at your town’s weekly vegetable market, if you’re in the UK. Sometimes the big supermarkets have them although there they come packed in plastic. The only downside of the baby aubergines is that it’s more fiddly to remove their skins but they’re so flavourful that I don’t mind putting in a little extra effort. You can use either but my preference is definitely these long slender purple baby aubergines.
Baingan ka bhartaCourse: MainCuisine: Punjabi, IndianDifficulty: Medium
8-12 baby aubergines or 1 large aubergine
4-6 cloves of garlic, coarsely sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
A sprig of curry leaves (optional)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2-3 medium sized shallots or 1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, sliced
2 medium sized tomatoes
½ inch ginger, chopped finely
chopped fresh coriander
- Tear off the green skin at the bottom of aubergine stalk, by hand, without breaking or removing the stalk itself (there is a lot of flavour in the stalks). Lightly grease the aubergines with oil and roast directly over a medium flame on the cooker until the skin is evenly charred. Place them on a kitchen towel to cool down for 10 mins.
- Peel off and discard the charred skin of the aubergines using your fingers, leaving only the flesh and stalks.
- Roughly chop or mash the smoked and peeled aubergines.
- Heat the oil in a pan or karahi. Add mustard seeds and leave them to splutter in the pan.
- Add chopped garlic, shallots, curry leaves and green chillies and sauté gently until the garlic and onion are lightly browned.
- Now add the turmeric and mashed aubergines. Mix the aubergines well with the spices and cover for 1 minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and ginger. Let it cook with the lid on for another 4-5 minutes until the aubergines and their stalks are tender. Serve hot with chapati or bread.
- The fiddly job of removing the skin of the charred aubergines can be made slightly easier by dipping your fingers into a bowl of water every so often.
- A gas hob is perfect for roasting aubergines, just use a pair of tongs to hold them over the naked flame. If you have an electric hob it’s not going to work well and if you’ve got an induction one then it won’t work at all! In that case you could try roasting them under a hot grill or use a kitchen blow torch. Either way you need to char the skins evenly.