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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Baingan Bharta, Eggplant Masala Mélange

At the top end of Melbourne’s Bourke Street sits a couple of Indian restaurants operating under the same chain.  They go by the names Green Pepper and Red Pepper.  Both places cook up similar dishes but the main variant in that Green Pepper is set up in a more classy almost fine dining manner.  Red Pepper is more of a regular take away joint that satisfies diners that are looking for quick informal bite to eat. 
Colleagues of mine have long bragged about the tastiest dish (according to them!) on the menus of both Red & Green Pepper – Baingan Bharta – a spicy eggplant dish from India that encompasses all things good about an eggplant or aubergine for my Poms out there!  The most memorable part of this dish is the smoky taste that comes from the cooking process of initially roasting the eggplant.  I recall this dish being made by my parents, but it is more of a side dish that was eaten alongside other vegetarian dishes with steamed basmati rice and daal.  At Green Pepper the dish is served as a main with your choice of naans or rice to accompany it, and as it is one of their specialties. Baingan Bharta costs more than most of the meat based mains and definitely packs more punch. 
I decided to challenge myself to recreate Green Pepper’s Baingan Bharta, after all how hard could it be?  Bharta in Hindi refers to a dish of a vegetable (usually), that has been pulped or mashed.  Another variety that was always popular with me as a child is Aloo Bharta which is made from potatoes.  The smoky flavour infused into the eggplant is the key to this dish. The aromas that fill the kitchen during preparation are sensational and give you a prelude of the dish to come - a mélange of masala delight!

Ingredients, to serve 4
2 x medium Eggplants (500g) (Baingan or Aubergine or Brinjal)
2 tbsp x Oil
1 tsp x Cumin Seeds
1 x Red Onion, finely diced
1 tbsp x Fresh Ginger, crushed
2 x Fresh Chilli, sliced (remove the seeds if you like it milder)
2 x tsp Cumin powder
½ cup x Peas
2 x Fresh Tomato, diced 
1 tsp x Mustard Oil (optional, but it adds to the flavour to the dish) 
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves, chopped for garnish 
1 tbsp x Ginger, cut into fine matchstick lengths 
Preheat the oven to 200o c
Place the eggplant in a roasting dish and allow to bake for 30-45 minutes
Turn the eggplant around with tongs every 15 minutes, the flesh will begin to collapse as it roasts
When the skin has darkened and is slightly hard to the touch remove from the oven
Turn the highest flame on your cooktop on
Hold the eggplants with metal tongs over the flame to blacken and blister the skin further, this will really infuse the smoky taste that is sought after
Allow the eggplant to cool then peel the skin off and mash into a coarse pulp
Heat a wok with the oil and add the cumin seeds
Fry for a few seconds then add the onion and cook till soft
Stir in the crushed ginger and sliced chilli with the cumin powder
Now add the eggplant and the peas and fold through the spice mix
Cook for 5 minutes stirring to avoid it from catching
Stir in the chopped tomato and mustard oil and cook for a further 5 minutes
Add salt to taste
Remove from heat and garnish with coriander and ginger matchsticks

"This is a very easy dish to create and does not have a huge list of hard to find spices.  It’s simplicity relies on the delectable smokiness of the eggplant and the freshness of the other ingredients.  With the addition of peas that gives the dish more body it even turns the tables on regular Baingan Bharta that my parents make as this now becomes a main.  Thanks goes out to Green Pepper for putting it on the menu, or else I would have never thought to cook an eggplant dish like this."
Baingan Bharta is a favourite dish at my workplace as most of my colleagues love the stuff and could probably live on it! 

So now when I make a batch of the good stuff, I make sure I take in plenty of lunch packs for the troops!
It saves me the trip to Green Pepper!!


Adrienne said...

I can definitely recommend this recipe! I went to the shop an bought some mustard oil on the weekend but unfortunately forgot to buy the... eggplant... lol. i'll definitely try this one night this week. thanks neil!

Sonja said...

I just followed this easy recipe and made my favorite eggplant dish! I got the smokiness just right while setting the fire alarm off ... lol.... Thanks Neil!

ngizee said...

Hi Sonja, I'm so happy that you finally got to do this dish - I know it's your favourite from Red Pepper. I bet your's tasted even better.