Aloo Baingan: Potatoes & Aubergine in the Pakistani Manner

It was our last summer in London. Post-graduate degrees in hand, we were going to leave the UK soon. I was to join my parents in Washington DC; S was to return to Karachi and Z was moving to Islamabad, her new home after having grown up in Manila. We spent our days walking around Covent Garden pausing to hear a street performer sing an aria, stopping at Caffè Nero for a creamy cappuccino, walking into Karen Millen to ogle the silk dresses (at that age, yes, Karen Millen was l’alta moda) or sitting in Z’s kitchen with her flatmates on the Pentonville Road in her uni housing, while she prepared a Pakistani scrambled egg dish of potatoes, cumin and green chilies for us. And there was tea, lots of tea, along with chocolate digestive biscuits for pudding.

Our dear friend A came from New York to visit us that summer. As we walked over the Embankment Bridge after attending a Sufi Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I don’t think we quite realised that it would be years before we would be together again. With all of us interspersed all over the world, that is the last time we spent together, the four of us. Whenever we meet now, it’s in configurations of two or three; we’ve never been able to manage that Lucky Number 4.

Before making it home that night, we stopped at the greengrocer’s on the Edgware Road, picking up potatoes, tomatoes and aubergine for a simple vegetarian dinner. Onto bus #16 and then off, across the street from home in Maida Vale. While chatting with S, Z and A, I made a Pakistani dish of potatoes and aubergine: aloo baingan. It’s a dish in which the potatoes and aubergine sort of meld together, each bite velvety and comforting. The tomatoes perfectly balance it out with its hint of tanginess.

We toasted slices of white bread in the toaster to scoop up the aloo baingain with, and spent the night talking, on the floor in an almost empty apartment. I haven’t made this dish since then and so, this post is for you, A- because you loved this dish. I don’t know if the dish was as good as you remember it to be, but that evening certainly was. Here’s to being together again, the four of us, in London again, sitting in Soho and having a cappuccino together, at some coffeeshop chain.

The venue never really mattered then, and it wouldn’t matter now.

Serves 4 with a side dish

Ingredients:
*1 tsp cumin seeds; known as zeera in Urdu
*a pour of corn oil (or other neutral oil)
*1 tsp ginger paste
*1 tsp garlic paste
*1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds; known as rai in Urdu
*1 lb potatoes
*2 lb aubergine (that will be 2 medium aubergine)
*1/2 lb tomatoes of your choice, I used cherry tomatoes, halved
*1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
*salt to taste
*1/4 tsp turmeric powder
*fresh coriander for garnish

Preparation:
*Place frying pan on high heat, add cumin seeds, when fragrant (10-20 seconds) take off heat and set aside.
*Remove skin from potatoes and dice into 1/4 inch cubes;
*Cut off stem of aubergine and dice into 1/4 inch cubes, with the skin on;
*Place pan (approximately 10-in diameter) on medium-high heat and pour in a glug of oil;
*Add ginger, garlic and mustard seeds-careful, it will splatter, have your pan lid handy (or some aluminium foil). Let it splatter for 30 seconds so the garlic and ginger is browned.
*Carefully remove lid (I take the pot off the burner and let it rest for at least 10 seconds before I remove the lid) and add potatoes.
*Turn the heat to medium;
*Saute for five minutes and add a tablespoon or more of water to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
*Add aubergine and continue to stir. Add cayenne, turmeric and salt to taste. Add a few more tablespoons of water (again, to prevent aubergine or potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan) and then add tomatoes.
*Turn the heat to low-medium, place lid on top and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Check at the 10 minute mark.
*When ready, sprinkle with roasted cumin and fresh chopped cilantro.
*Eat with rice, naan, chapati or toasted bread :)

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Comments

  1. Shayma,
    Love your writing and cannot wait to try this recipe. I adore eggplants, especially when called aubergine ; )

  2. What a lovely and nostalgic post! I can still remember my uni days too… but I never ate this well!

  3. Lovely piece. It’s amazing that sometimes food brings back so many memories.

  4. Funny, reading your story I can completely taste the food in my mouth now. Lovely, can’t wait to try it for real!

  5. Lovely recipe Shayma – can see that working it’s way into my ‘comfort’ repertoire! Pamela x

  6. Loved reading this, Shaym, especially the ending. Here’s to the best food blog out there! xoxo Z

  7. This piece is evocative of the gilded and effortless student days when a simple vegetarian meal can seem to be a feast. But, egg plant and potato curry with toasted nan’s can become a memorable event, if cooked your way Spicey!!

  8. This sounds like a soothing, comforting dish.

    And you’ve got a standing invitation for coffee in London with Rej, Rav and I x

  9. Shayma joon, I can relate to your story so much. Thank you for sharing it. This is a lovey eggplant dish.xx

  10. What an absolutely perfect supper for early fall. Your words are so evocative, so persuasive; can’t wait to try this.

    Miss W x

  11. Mmmmm…I’m looking to experiment with more vegetarian dishes, and I think this one would be a beautiful place to start my journey. – S

  12. Shayma, loved reading about your London days and writing is just puts me in a nostalgic mood! Eggplant is one of my favorite veggies, love the recipe!

  13. The humble aloo baingan. Really your photographs even make something as simple and staple like aloo baingan seem well exquisite. Nothing better for lunch in the summers than simple vegetable dishes like aloo baingan or arvi baingan (salsify and aubergines) or okra in an onion tomato massala.
    Try a raita made with onions, tomatoes and green chillies spiced just with some salt, red chilli powder, cumin, a bit of sugar, ajwain and fresh coriander. Goes wondefully well with any vegetable dish or any pulao.

  14. Love eggplant in all its forms–Pakistani versions like this aloo baingan, baingan ka raita, and bharta are my faves. I have so many eggplants in my fridge I will surely make this with them, never knew about adding rai to the dish, will add it.

    Your story is also touching, I hope all four of you have a reunion soon. :)

  15. Your baingan recipes have made me love baingan that much more.

  16. Shayma my lovely I have a question – in your recipe you say to cut the potato and aubergine into 1/4 inch dice, but in the photo the pieces look bigger than that. Just curious to know which size is more authentic to the dish and/or cooks up better? Sounds yummy (as ever) either way! Arlene xx

  17. @Arlene Thank you, darling. The ideal size would be 1/4 to 1/2 inch. In the photo, there must have been some slightly large, ‘rogue’ pieces which missed my knife! tee hee If the pieces are larger, the cooking time would also increase, so you could actually cut the veggies any size you like, whilst adjusting the time and lowering the heat a bit more. Hope this helps? x s

  18. @Pati @Sul-Lin @Dave @Maggie @Pamela @Gourmand @Azita @MissWhistle @Oui, Chef @Sara @Nadia @Rabya Thank you so much for your kind words.

    @Zarreen And here’s to the four of us being together in London again. Love, s

    @KSalty Thank you- I look forward to spending some girl time. x s

    @Umair Thank you for visiting and for the raita recipe-I shall try it. Sounds delicious. While my paternal grandmother was alive, the tradition in our home in Lahore was Arvi Gosht on Fridays after juma prayers.

  19. na kar aise baatien!..you do realise it shall never be the lucky number 4 again but some multiple of it given the rate some of us a reproducing!…spent a wonderful summer with Z..especially memorable lunch where we talked and talked and laughed so much…the waiter came up to us in the end and asked if we were sisters..hope to see all my girls together not at a coffee shop but over a meal prepared by you..that would be a dream..

  20. Evocative and ever so nostalgic…left a lump in my throat hoping you get together with A again soon! I love the connect that food offers, and this one is touching! You take the aloo baingan to lofty heights S…xoxo

  21. Such a simple dish. but yet full of flavours. Its amazing how food connects emotions, relationships and other aspects of our lives.

  22. I have had this dish,and it’s absolutely delicious!!So simple but tasty…

  23. gorgeous post shayma -and definitely what Katy said! x

  24. Such a great post Shayma. You have taken the aloo baingan to new heights :)

  25. I came across your blog today for the first time through Rachel at Rachel Eats. It is very lovely. I live and work in NYC where I was born and raised. However, my mother was British and married my dad, whom she met during WWII when he was on leave in Liverpool. I spent a lot of my childhood in The Wirral visiting her parents, my grandparents. We would stay for up to six months, and I would go to school in England during the time I was there. So I have strong memories of both an English childhood and an American one and love the food of both nations.

    I am very happy to have found you and your beautiful blog and delighted that one of the reasons you write is to let someone like me in on the culture of your country and your heritage. It is a beautiful sentiment and at this time in history wonderfully apropos.

    I will be a regular reader. Thank you for your generosity.

  26. yummm…this looks super yummy!

  27. I’ve just discovered your blog. I love the sound of this recipe and am enjoying browsing through your site.

  28. Memories bring about the taste of foods and i love how beautifully u have narrated here!!
    And this is an absolute delite!!
    Love the fantastic combis!

  29. you bring elegance to cooking!

  30. Oh boy, I just love all types of potato dishes. The one you made looks delicious and mouth watering. And, and … great photo, by the way.

  31. I seem to be a bit late to this website, but absolutely love it! I’ve been cooking your glazed carrots for the past week non-stop like some kind of carrot-junkie! :) Tried the Aloo Baingan tonight and added some additional chili peppers and about a tbspn of tomato paste on top of the tomatoes since I am a spicy-tomatoe fanatic…results were awesome!

  32. I want to make this dish to eat with a naan I´m baking. Do I simply mash garlic and ginger to make the paste?

    • @Paula Hello, yes, I would use a pestle and mortar if I want to make a ginger/garlic paste. If you don’t have one, jarred pastes are fine, too. Hope that helps.

  33. Hi Shayma, I´m posting about Naan and made this dish to go with it. I want to link it directly to your site. Please tell me if that´s OK. Thanks!

  34. shayma, lovely post. believe it or not i read just the first sentence of this post ” it was our last summer in london” about 10 times. It makes me so nostalgic to think of those college days coming to an end. and I dont want to let it go.

    I make aloo baingan all the time and it is as comforting as you have expressed. hope i will make your way and post it on my blog soon
    thanks.

  35. Hi Shayma,
    Yesterday, I had some baingans’ in my fridge and I wanted to try out a new recipe. While searching for one, I accidently came across your website. The recipe was the last thing I printed … I could’nt believe that I actually got busy reading your blog. I love reading and your writing is really very interesting.
    I come from Pakistan too. I stay in Qatar and love the traditional pakistani dishes. I like to try new recipes’ and not stick with the same taste that I have cooked earlier. By the way, I completely forgot while reading your blog that it was a recipe for baingan that I was looking for :)
    Keep writing and whats’ the name of your ‘tiny spoon’. Congrats to the parents…. and May he be blessed with a beautiful life (Ameen).
    By the way, I tried your recipe yesterday and it turned out yumm…. I guess I am going to try some more recipes’ of yours ! Thanks !!!

  36. Gill Biland says:

    Yummy, yummy. Just tried this dish with mint/yogurt chutney and freshly baked nan. Wonderful! Many thanks for the recipe.

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