A few who have read about my eggplant/brinjal love in the past will be surprised to see this recipe here. The truth is I belong to the 'eggplant haters' club, if such a thing does exist. I've never liked its texture and my mom always made an extra vegetable dish for me when she cooked brinjal at home. When I came here for my masters, my roomies did the same for me, or better yet, we never cooked with it, simple.
But there is never escaping the King, the eggplant's versatility lends itself to many many dishes. Almost every cuisine in the world uses eggplants and you can apply any cooking technique to them - roasted, deep-fried, sautéed, grilled, baked, mashed, stuffed, pickled - anything at all will work. V happens to love them too, so I couldn't get too far avoiding it the way I used too. His favorite way of enjoying the eggplant is in the quintessential Andhra guthi vankaya kura, apart from kalchina vankaya pachadi and vankaya pulusu pachadi, all of which are coming up really soon here :( :). But as for the hyderabadi in me, it has to be Bagara Baingan. The main component in the gravy are the peanuts, and if you've read the previous post, you know I love them :) My mother makes a variation of this dish by adding tomatoes or capsicum instead/along with the brinjals for
Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan
- 6-8 nos - small & tender purple Eggplants/brinjals
- 1½ cups - Onions, sliced (used for the masala paste & final gravy)
- 1/4 cup - Peanuts
- 1 Tbsp - Sesame seeds
- 1 tsp - Poppy seeds
- 1 tsp - Coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp - Cumin seeds
- 1 inch piece - Cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp - grated, dried Coconut (I substitute with fresh)
- 1 inch piece - Ginger,
- 4-5 nos - Garlic cloves (2-3 if the cloves are plump)
- 1/4 tsp - Turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp - Red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp - Jaggery, grated
- 1 tsp - Tamarind extract/ pulp from a key lime sized tamarind ball
- 2 Tbsp - Peanut oil/Vegetable oil
- 6-7 nos - Curry leaves
- Salt to tasteMethod:
- Wash the eggplants and pat them dry. You can chop off the thick stem on top, but leave the crown intact. It helps hold the eggplant together during the cooking process.
- In a sauté pan dry roast the peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coriander and cumin seeds, grated coconut and cinnamon stick one after the other. Use a medium flame and stir the ingredients frequently to achieve even browning. If you are familiar with their cooking times you can do this in one go by timing them accordingly. Allow them to cool for a few minutes
- Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and brown the sliced onions, about 8-10mins. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over them in the beginning to draw out their moisture.
- Once all the dry roasted ingredients have cooled down, grind them together to a fine paste along with half the cooked onions, ginger, garlic, tamarind extract, turmeric powder and a little water to help the blending process. You still need a thick'ish paste that can be stuffed into the eggplants.
- Using a paring knife, carefully make crosswise slits through the eggplant stopping an inch before you get to the stem end. Stuff about a teaspoon of the paste into the slits, this will need some patience :)
- Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a deep saucepan, sauté the curry leaves and carefully add the stuffed brinjals to the pan. They tend to splutter a lot, so I cover the pan and let them cook for about 10 mins, until they soften. Rotate them every few minutes so they cook evenly.
- Reduce the heat a bit, add the rest of the masala paste, the other half of the cooked onions, red chilli powder, a cup and a half of water and salt to taste.
- Cook on medium heat until the eggplants are cooked through and the oil starts to separate from the masala and collect around the edges.
- Serve warm with mild jeera rice, pulao or phulka's.
I made a mildly flavored rice and onion-cilantro raita to go along with the bagara baingan. For the rice, I sauteed shahjeera, a few cloves, a bay leaf and pinch of turmeric in some butter. Toasted the washed and drained rice in the butter and spices and then cooked the rice in the electric cooker. I could eat all the gravy in the this dish by myself. It has all the yummy flavors that make your palate tingle - nutty, tart, sweet and sour. Mirchi ka Salan, another Hyderabadi treasure, uses a very similar base with fiery green chillies taking center stage. Eggplants though, are like a sponge, drinking up all the flavors added to them while still being robust enough to hold up their own. Bagara Baingan is a decadent dish that will warm you up from within and make you feel pampered. So one of these cold nights ahead, treat yourself like royalty and indulge yourself.
And now for the winner of the 'Anjum's New Indian' cookbook giveaway. I used random . org to pick a number thrice and averaged the numbers to get to the winner, (had to make it a little more complicated than just picking a number). Drumroll please ....... the winner is Usha of 'My Spicy Kitchen'. Congratulations Usha! I'll email you with further details. Thank you all for the lovely comments and sharing your favorite meals with me. Reading each comment made me crave those dishes :D I loved the whole process and will surely have more such fun giveaways in the future.