I’ve had The Essential Madhur Jaffrey sitting in my bookshelf untouched since last Christmas – it was a Secret Santa gift from my one of my former coworkers whose name continues to remain a secret until this day. Since I couldn’t figure out who gave it to me, I gushed to all likely suspects how touched I was by the gesture. While everyone else received gag gifts and gift certificates, I received a gift that actually had some thought put into it.
So what took me so long to break out the Jaffrey? When it comes to Indian, I’ve got a few full-proof recipes and it’s tough to break outside the mold and risk a recipe failure. Not only that, but Jaffrey’s book doesn’t have any pictures in it and it’s really hard to be inspired by a recipe if it doesn’t come with a mouth-watering picture attached. Call me fickle, but pretty photos make a difference.
Photo or not, last Thursday I found myself with three eggplants and a hankering for Indian food. Eggplant bharta has always been a favourite of mine at Indian restaurants, and when I saw the recipe in Jaffrey’s book, I thought I’d give it a try.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this dish. I didn’t realize that the recipe required I grill the eggplant SLOWLY for 20-25 minutes before getting on with the actual cooking, which takes another 30 minutes or so. When I was finally done, the amount of bharta in the pan look disappointingly small after the effort.
The taste, however, was no where near disappointing.
Eggplant is a SPONGE for flavor. The eggplant and tomato really suck in the spices, and what results is an extraordinary flavor concentration that is sublime with fresh chapati. What seemed like a small amount of food was actually plenty, and there was enough leftover for two days worth of lunches. Next time I make this, I’ll probably double the recipe and freeze half of it, and bake the eggplant to save time (a shortcut, I know, but I wonder if it will make much of a difference after adding all the yummy spices).
1 large eggplant
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 green chilli, finely sliced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or 200g tinned)
1/2-1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala
Set the grill (or broiler) in your oven to high. Place the whole eggplant under the grill and leave it there until the area nearest the heat darkens. Using tongs, gently turn the eggplant slightly by its stem and let the new hot spot darken. Keep rotating until the entire eggplant is scorched. This should take 20-25 minutes. Be patient!
Remove the eggplant, put it on a plate and take it to the sink. Put it under cold running water and peel the blackened skin off of the eggplant. Drank and shake off as much water as you can.
Put the onion, ginger and garlic in a blender 3 Tbsp or so of water and blend to a paste at high speed.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. While heating, pour in the onion paste and add the turmeric. Fry until the mixture startes to brown, about 5 minutes, then add teh green chilli and cilantro and fry another 1 minute. Then add the tomatoes, lower the flame, and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add the eggplant, salt, lemon juice and garam masala. Raise the flame to medium, and fry for 10-15 minutes.
To serve, remove the bharta to a warm dish and serve sprinkled with green coriander. Serve with rice, bread or my favorite – chapatis!
I give this recipe a thumbs up. (Tim snapped this while I was leaning over to check on the chapatis. You can see the eggplant cooking on the stove. Do you like my spatula thumb extension?)