Baigan Bharta is an iconic dish that you’ve, no doubt, enjoyed at your local Indian eatery. It basically translates to “Eggplant with minced vegetables,” which is a description that hardly does justice to this delicious preparation. Complex, in a smoky, sweet, spicy, savory kind of way, Baigan Bharta thrills the taste buds, and lacking any animal fat, it’s healthy to boot. It’s also fun to make because you get to roast a whole eggplant directly on one of the burners on your stovetop (provided you are using a gas range instead of electric). The thick eggplant skin chars well, allowing all that flavorful smoke to seep right into the inner flesh. In this recipe, we also roast the tomatoes in the oven, though if you are short on time you can always used canned tomatoes. Though the recipe calls for a food processor to puree the vegetables, I prefer a rough chop to preserve some kind of texture beyond that of baby food. Also, you will get different bites–some of sweet tomato and some of smoky eggplant. Since there are very few spices used–only cumin seed, coriander seed, and cayenne powder–this dish can be put together without much fuss, and should be added to your regular repertoire. It can stand alone with some steamed Basmathi rice and raita, or eat is as a snack with some good Indian flatbread like chapati or roti. There’s a ton of recipes for this dish floating around out there, but I found one I liked in the new cookbook, Spices & Seasons, by fellow Hippocrene author, Rinku Bhattacharya. It’s simple to make, with relatively few ingredients, and tastes amazing. I guarantee Baigan Bharta will become one of your goto Indian dishes.
From Spices & Seasons (Hippocrene Books, 2014) by Rinku Bhattacharya 1 large of 2 medium eggplants (about 1 ½ lbs.) 3 Tbsp. oil 4 medium ripe tomatoes (about ¾ lb) 1 tsp. cumin seeds 1 medium red onion, finely chopped 2 tsp. crushed coriander seeds 2 tsp. ginger paste 6 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tsp. salt or to taste 1 tsp. cayenne pepper powder 2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro leaves 2-3 green chilies, chopped (optional)
- Place eggplant(s) on an open flame and cook for about 6-7 minutes. When the exposed side is completely charred, turn the eggplant and roast on the other side for 6-7 minutes until well charred. Place the eggplant(s) on a plate to cool. Carefully remove the skin and mash coarsely.
- In the meantime, drizzle about 1 tablespoon of oil into a baking dish. Place the tomatoes in the dish and begin broiling them in the oven on low heat. Turn the tomatoes a couple of times to ensure they are cooked evenly and the skin is uniformly darkened. When the tomatoes are charred, remove from broiler and cool slightly. Carefully remove their skin and place the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and coarsely puree.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a pot. Add the cumin seeds and cook for about 45 seconds. Add the red onions and lightly sauté for about 5-6 minutes, until they wilt and begin to turn soft and crisp around the edges. Add the coriander seeds, ginger paste, and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant and toasty.
- Add the mashed eggplant and mix well. Add the tomato puree, salt, and cayenne pepper powder, and cook and stir until they are well mixed.
- Stir in the cilantro leaves and serve immediately.