Bhagara Baingan - Spicy Stuffed Eggplant/Brinjal/Aubergine (GF, V)
I must confess that the eggplant is not one of my best loved vegetables. In fact, it is only now that I’m slowly developing a liking for it and even then it’s mostly in dishes that I have cooked because I know how I like it!
As children, one of the rules that got strictly enforced at the table by our father was that we had to eat whatever our mother cooked for the day without refusing it. We did get served smaller helpings of food we didn’t particularly like, but if either my sister or I said we didn’t like something the punishment was an extra helping of it! And we didn’t get excused from the table till we had eaten it all because wasting food was not encouraged.
I was the one who questioned everything and fought being forced to do things I didn’t like and invariably got into trouble by getting the extra second serving while my younger sister was the smart one who kept quiet. She still doesn’t like eggplant while I’m the one who has started liking it somewhat.
As I was saying, I like eggplant certain ways and that includes dishes like Baingan Bhartha or Caponata where it is first roasted/ grilled which gives the vegetable that smokiness. Over the last few years, I have also been discovering that there are a whole lot of varieties of the eggplant and some of them taste much better than others when cooked.
This stuffed version is one that is slowly becoming a favourite with my husband and myself though it’s a something I cook once in a while because it is a preparation that requires a lot more oil than I am comfortable using in my everyday cooking. It’s not the prettiest looking of dishes, but I can assure you that tastes s much better than it looks.
Use purple baby eggplant to make this dish. Otherwise pick the smallest of the small to medium sized purple eggplant, the kind that have very little or no seeds.
Bhagara Baingan (Spicy Stuffed Eggplant/Brinjal/ Aubergine)
(Adapted from The Complete Vegetable Cookbook)
To be roasted and powdered:
- First make the spice mix for stuffing the eggplants. Heat the oil in a pan, and all the spices except the coconut. Roast over low heat until they give off an aroma (don’t let them burn). Transfer to the jar of your mixer/ grinder or spice grinder. In the same pan, toast the coconut until it turns golden brown. Add to the roasted spices and grind to a slightly coarse powder. Add a little salt to this, mix and keep aside.
- Soak the tamarind in half a cup of warm water for about 15 to 20 minutes. Extract the pulp and keep aside, discarding the solids.
- Now prepare the eggplant for stuffing. Make sure all your eggplant have their stalks intact. Wash and pat dry the eggplant. Then slit them lengthwise into 4 or 8 from the bottom to the stalk keeping them joined at the stalk so the pieces don’t separate completely.
- Carefully stuff each eggplant with about a teaspoonful of the spice mixture, making sure it gets into all the crevices. Save the leftover spice mix.
- Heat 2 to 3 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan, and place the stuffed eggplant gently in it. Turn the heat to low and let them cook well. Keep turning them gently so that they get cooked on all sides. Cook with the pan covered to ensure the eggplant gets cooked through. When they’re done, remove them carefully from the oil and let them rest on a plate.
- Add the remaining oil to the pa. When the oil is hot, add chillies, the garlic and the ginger. Sauté a couple of times and then add the onions and curry leaves. Sauté further until the onion turn soft and golden brown. Add the turmeric powder and the remaining spice mix to the pan, and let it cook till the oil surfaces.
- Add the tamarind extract and the jaggery and more salt as required. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until you have a thick-ish gravy like sauce. Gently place the eggplant in the pan, and let them simmer in the sauce over low heat for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve warm with chapathis or rice.