I’m lucky to live in a town with a truly incredible Afghan restaurant, The Helmand (which, incidentally, is owned by Afghan President Hamid Kharzi’s elder brother Qayum). It’s white tableclothes and attentive service conjure a high-end feel, but the food itself is simple, unassuming, delicious, and downright affordable. Since I’ve eaten here countless times, I kind of take for granted the fact that I can get an authentic Afghani meal here in the city that spawned The Wire. On a recent visit, however, I was especially impressed, not by the star appetizer–kaddo borwani, which is sauteed baby pumpkin in a yogurt garlic sauce–but by the eggplant, which is done in a similar manner. I was so impressed, in fact, that when I got home, I promptly checked the one Afghani cookbook I own to see if they had the recipe. Sure enough, Afghan Food & Cookery (Hippocrene Books) by Helen Saberi had a recipe for Burani Bonjon, which they called “spicy braised eggplant with a yogurt garlic sauce.” Since I was making this dish for the first time, I also checked out the internet to source some other recipes for the dish, and combined my research into the recipe below.
This is simple, tasty food that uses good stuff like eggplants, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and green peppers. But what really puts it over the top is the Seer Moss or yogurt and garlic sauce, with the added flavor of mint, which would make an old shoe taste good. While the prep takes a little time, it is well worth your effort. This dish may be served as an appetizer, or make it a main course with a side of steamed Basmathi rice.
(adapted from Afghan Food & Cookery by Helen Saberi)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed & minced
1-2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced into rings
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
for the Seer Moss (garlic yogurt):
16 oz. Greek yogurt
4 cloves garlic, smashed & minced
2 teaspoons dried mint
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped (for garnish)
1.) Slice eggplants into rounds ½ thick. Salt liberally and let drain for 30 minutes. Then rinse off and pat dry.
2.) Combine ingredients for yogurt sauce and chill for at least one hour.
3.) Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and brown both sides in broiler. Set aside
4.) In a small pan, fry onion and garlic with a little oil until softened. Remove.
5.) Add eggplant slices to the pan and layer with tomato, green pepper, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle with cayenne powder and salt. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water, cover pan, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
6.) To serve, spread about half the yogurt sauce onto a platter. Carefully remove vegetables from pan and place on top of yogurt. Dollop the rest of the yogurt on top and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.