In our close knit neighborhood in my hometown, there existed (maybe still exists on a lesser scale) this tradition of exchanging bowls and plates filled with yummy delicacies. Now these were exchanged either on festivals, or on special occasions like birthdays, or sometimes – just because ‘I made something interesting and thought you would like it!’. This exchange gave us (Maharashtrians) a glimpse into all the Rajasthani, Gujrati and Marwari cuisine doing rounds in these bowls – which further led to food discussions and scribbling down of recipes. I have fond memories of my mom and me standing on the stairs and chatting to aunties and bhabhis standing on the ground and second floor – talking of food, fashion trends and gossip :).
One such recipe I jotted down nearly 7 years ago is the baingan bharta which our next door neighbor Anju bhabhi brought in one day – it was something we had never seen or tasted. She informed us it was a biangan bharta made by Gujratis / Jains, as it had no onion, garlic. Now this one had so many virtues apart from being fragrant with spices – needed only a pressure cooker to cook, did not require the eggplants to be roasted for hours, and it’s long shelf life due to absence of any water made it great candidate to be carried for travel. The only vice it has is that it uses loads of oil – which can be handled by draining out the oil once the bharta is ready to be served. I decided to call this one ‘you won’t believe it is baingan’ as the eggplant is totally transformed with an overload of spices and may leave you guessing for the first two bites.
Baingan / Eggplant – 1 (big, the round variety used for making bharta)
Oil – 4 tbsp ( I use Saffola. Yeah, that’s a huge quantity, but you can’t do without it)
Jeera / Carom, Rai / Mustard – half tsp each
Haldi / Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Heeng / Asafoetida – 2 pinches
Kasoori methi – 1 tsp (the star ingredient – a must have)
Peanut Powder – 2 tsp (optional)
Saunf/ Fennel , Til / Sesame, Khopra Boora / Desiccated Coconut Powder – half tsp each (these are optional, nice to have ingredients)
Dhania / Dry Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – half tsp ( I use Dave ka Divya brand)
1. Take a thick based pressure cooker.
2. Heat oil in a cooker. (ALL of it. This recipe uses NO WATER, only oil.)
3. Once the oil heats up, put in jeera and rai and heeng. Once the jeera crackles, add the haldi and take the cooker off the flame. Reason- now u start putting in the entire world in the cooker, which takes time 🙂
4. Cut the baingan into 4 quarters (Yeah i know they are big, but no need to make smaller chunks). Put them in the cooker.
5. Add the spices except the garam masala to the cooker.
6. Toss the cooker to mix everything, else use a ladle to do so. The oil and spices will coat the baingan pieces nicely.
7. Close the cooker and put it back on the burner, on a sim flame. (Gentle reminder – no water please !!)
8. In 4 to 5 whistles, you will get a nice aroma of kasoori methi and cooked baingan. Switch the gas off.
9. Once the cooker cools down, open it. The large chunks of baingan would have turned totally soft. Mix in the garam masala and mash the entire thing using the back of a ladle. This is ready to be served with hot rotis.
10. You will notice that if kept for a few minutes, a layer of oil separates out on the top. If you would like, just tilt the bowl and let go of this oil.