Baingan Bharta (pronounced BHURR-taah), refers to dishes in which the ingredients are roughly mashed either before or after the dish is prepared. In this spicy, smoky dish from the Punjab region of India, eggplant (baingan) is cooked until silky and tender, and then mixed with aromatics and spices.
When researching this dish, I found its preparation is very similar to baba ghanoush in that you roast and mash the eggplant before seasoning it with aromatics, herbs and spices, but its flavor profile is wildly different. Here, fresh ginger, garam masala and jalapeño add warmth, while the addition of lime juice provides brightness. This version keeps the veggies less mashed than many, and therefore more appealing to us.
I cooked the rice in vegetable broth instead of water which gave it a nice light golden color and added a bit of flavor.
There is something about roasting baingan on an open fire in that its skin just changes everything and gives it an incredible flavor. The entire process takes about 8-10 minutes on a medium high flame and you’ll need to turn it every 1-2 minutes for even roasting. Or you can char the eggplant under the broiler as directed below, although you won’t get that distinctive smokiness. It will be piping hot once you roast it, so cover it with some foil and let it rest for a few minutes. This creates a bit of steam and loosens the skin.
To save time later on, I charred the eggplants earlier in the day, cooled and peeled them, then stored them in an airtight ziploc container until time to make dinner.
Since I had 4 small eggplants, I was going to try a combination of both methods, two on the stovetop, two in the oven. But roasting them over the open flame was so successful, that I did the final two the same way, with both on one burner—plus my gas broiler basically sucks, as I’ve mentioned before 😦 The tomatoes, onion and jalapeño did get charred under the broiler as directed.
You can find ghee and the spice mix garam masala at most supermarkets, but if ghee is unavailable, butter works as an OK substitute. The plum tomatoes were just gorgeous at the grocery store so we bought four (the recipe calls for 3 regular). Afterward, i think the dish could have used even another one or two more tomatoes. And of course I had to include a few extra garlic cloves and an additional jalapeño 😉
We were totally unprepared for how good this dish was! Don’t omit the golden raisins because they gave just enough of a sweet note to offset the other pungent flavors. This meal is a perfect option for those adhering to a plant-based diet, or maintaining a Meatless Monday regimen. Serve over rice or with warm naan or other flatbread.
- 2 Tbs. peanut or other neutral oil
- 2 lb. eggplant (about 2 medium or 4 small)
- 1-1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium)
- 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium jalapeño
- Kosher salt
- 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) ghee or unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup roasted salted cashews, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1-1/2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- Cooked basmati rice or naan
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the broiler on high. Brush some of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Put the eggplant, tomatoes, onion, and jalapeño on the baking sheet. Pierce the eggplant all over with a knife, and brush the vegetables on all sides with the remaining oil. (Alternatively, roast the eggplant on a gas stove over the open flame.)
- Broil the vegetables, turning them a couple of times during cooking, until the eggplant are soft and well charred and the other vegetables are well charred in places, about 25-30 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, peel and discard the stem and skin of the eggplant, tomatoes, and jalapeño (discard the seeds for less heat), leaving some charred bits behind, and transfer to a large bowl. Coarsely chop the vegetables, return them to the bowl, season with 1 tsp. salt, and stir to combine.
- In a large skillet, heat the ghee (or butter) over low heat. Add the cashews, raisins, garlic, ginger, garam masala, and 1 tsp. salt. cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Using a rubber spatula, transfer the eggplant mixture to the skillet.
- Raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up any large pieces of eggplant, until just heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt, top with the cilantro, and serve with rice or naan and lime wedges.
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