Monday, August 9, 2010

King of Veggies!

When I was a kid, there was this show on television that was a musical of sorts and the characters were all the different types of vegetables. Now I don't really remember most of that show, however, one thing got stuck in my head, that I remember even today, every time I come across an eggplant. Yep, Aubergine or better known in India as Brinjal is supposedly, per that show, the KING of vegetables! No clue why! I am guessing because of that "crown"--- but then so many veggies have a crown.......then why this particular veggie? Oh, interestingly, it is all over the internet too and there seems to be a debate on "who" really is the king of veggies--- brinjal/eggplant or potato?!  Well, not my problem--- all I know is that I love this veggie, which is quite cool because most people, for some reason, hate the eggplant!

 "Baingan ka bhartha:" Basically the Indian version of Baba Ghanouj. Smoky, spicy and delicious! (OK, kids HATE it, though the Dad loves it!)

Basics: American eggplant, oil, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato (or tomato paste), salt, red chilli powder, mustard seeds, a pinch of garam masala (optional) and err, a little bit of patience!

Prepping the Eggplant:
  1. This is THE most important step in the whole process of cooking baingan ka bhartha. If you are in a BIG hurry, you could just cook up the eggplant in the microwave or in a pressure cooker. But that would be just, well, boring!
  2. This is where the broiler comes in handy. So I place the eggplant in the broiler pan and broil the entire thing for a good 30 mins, with one turning over in between. The idea is to char the outer part of the eggplant such that the flesh inside gets this beautiful smoky flavor to it-- that is what is key to this whole preparation. 
 Eggplant ready to be charred!

Oh yeah, nicely charred!

Almost there:

That's it. Once the broiling is done, I set the eggplant aside to cool. Remember, we broiled it for a good 30 minutes and it is going to be super hot. Gotta be careful  not to burn yourself.

While the eggplant is in the broiler, I chop up some onion and a clove or 2 of garlic. Crush some ginger. Then I take a pan, put a few teaspoons of oil, temper some mustard seeds and then sautee the onion, garlic, ginger. Also add a couple teaspoons of tomato paste (you could use some chopped tomato too). Add salt per taste, some red chilli powder and a pinch of garam masala. The base is ready.

By the time the base is ready, the eggplant would have cooled off. So then I run a fork through the charred skin of the eggplant, so as to expose the flesh and then I spoon out the flesh into the base in the pan.

That's the flesh we are looking for

The charred remains!

I try not to put the charred skin along with the smoky flesh. I mean, it is just unpleasant to bite into.
Finally I sort of mash up the eggplant flesh and stir it with the rest of the base (the onion, ginger, garlic & tomato).
I garnish with fresh green cilantro (or a green chilli like I did today-- the reason being, I was out of cilantro!). The best way to eat this is with roti or parantha or naan. Regular bread, preferably toasted, works well too.

Indian Baba Ghanouj--- Baingan ka Bhartha

Now I do know that a lot of people simply hate the eggplant. Apparently it reminds them of certain undigested matter! I think that is just plain simple fear. I really think that when it comes to vegetables, or fruit, for that matter, one must be open to trying out all the available variety out there. Oh well, I dunno about you, but I LOVE vegetables and I most certainly love the King of Veggies, the Eggplant!


Priya said...

Too good!But you missed out on that buying egg plant funda!

Dreamer said...

Thanks! Well, u will find the eggplant funda in my May 13 post titled, "Stars." Check out the bit on Alton Brown...... ;)