Recently I joined an interesting group of food bloggers. Most of them are trained chefs and have had long involvements with the hospitality/food industry and quite a few of them have very established food blogs with a large steady readership. Compared to them, I am a complete newbie in the blogosphere. Each of them has his/her niche area – some are bakers, some are pastry chefs, some vegans or others that focus on the nutritional aspect of the dishes they create. So while I was trolling through their various pages, I realized that there seems to be a certain flavor profile to my cooking as well. Most of my food preferences have been shaped by my various travels – I love Mediterranean food, Mexican food, Indonesian food, Thai food, French food and of course, being Indian, I obviously love Indian food. But with each of these types of flavor profiles, I add or subtract ingredients to suit my own palate. Even my Indian food recipes are not completely traditional either – most often I end up tweaking the traditional flavors. But in a couple of weeks, I have a session on Indian cooking at my place so I decided that for that I should add a few of the basic Indian recipes to the blog. So today I made a Baingan Bharta (literally translated it means eggplant squashed) as it is an absolute favorite of mine. Of course, in India it is usually paired with plain yogurt or Raita but I added crumbled goat cheese on top of mine. It came out absolutely delicious and the tang of the creamy goat cheese balanced out the sharp spices of the Garam Masala. The goat cheese melted into the hot eggplant and the combination was just perfect!
1. One eggplant (look for a firm unblemished eggplant with a green stem)
2. 2 medium sized yellow onions
3. 4 cloves of garlic
4. 1 inch long fresh ginger root
5. 6-8 cocktail tomatoes (any ripe tomatoes would do)
6. 2 fresh green chilies
7. 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8. 1 teaspoon sugar
9. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10. 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (I make my own by grinding one part cumin seeds+one part black pepper + 1/2 part cloves + 6-8 Black Cardamoms pods + 4-5 cinnamon sticks in a spice grinder)
11. 2 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese
12. 3 tablespoons of cooking oil (I used corn oil)
13. Salt to taste
1. Place the eggplant over an open gas flame to char its outside skin. You may need to turn the eggplant frequently to char it evenly on each side. Usually this takes 5-6 minutes
2. Heat the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. When the eggplant is charred on all the sides, wrap it with heavy duty tin foil. Try to enclose the full eggplant completely so that steam does not escape from the foil wrapper.
4. Place this wrapped eggplant on an oven safe dish and place it in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
5. When the eggplant is baked, open the foil carefully to release the steam and let the eggplant cool down. Do not throw away the juices that have collected under the eggplant because they house the concentrated smoked/charred flavor that makes the dish delicious!
6. While the eggplant is cooling, peel and finely chop the two onions.
7. In a heavy bottomed skillet, add the cooking oil and start heating it on medium heat.
12. Then using your hands or a large serving spoon, mash the flesh of the eggplant. Keep the juices of the eggplant with its flesh. Set this aside. Keep an eye on the onions and continue to stir them so they don’t get too brown.
14. When the onions look translucent and lightly browned, add salt, (to taste – I added 1/2 teaspoon) red pepper flakes, sugar, green chilies and the Garam Masala to the skillet and stir. Cook for about 30 seconds.
16. Add the mashed eggplant to the skillet. Also using a microplane, grate the ginger into the skillet and stir. Continue cooking the eggplant over low heat till you see oil separate and collect towards the sides of the skillet. This usually takes 10-15 minutes – depending on the water content in the eggplant.