Baingan Bharta – Roasted Eggplant / Aubergine Dip in the Pakistani Manner

Baingan Bharta

I don’t remember Amma Subraayi. Our family’s seamstress, she died a few years after I was born, and by that time we had already moved to Washington, DC. My Nani Ami bought the jewel-toned fabrics for our razais, (winter quilts) and Amma Subraayi would stitch them painstakingly, by hand, with a curved upholstery needle. Sitting under the winter sun on my grandparents’ rear terrace, she laid the fabric out on a woven bed called a charpai and nimbly stitched the fabric together, stuffing it with cotton for weeks on end. Each razai was stitched in its own geometric pattern and with special fabric. Ami’s was a plaid burgundy and my Khala’s (aunt’s), was a candy-coloured orange with a floral design.

Baingan Bharta

My razai was purple. How it came to be my razai, I don’t really remember. But I chose it. It was made with a beautiful two-toned purple velvet, the sort of colour you see on your tongue after eating a bowl of blueberries. Depending on which side you were looking at the razai from, it was a deep purple or a lighter, amethyst hue. The razai was so big that when I covered myself with it in bed, it would refuse to curl around my body. Nani Ami would sit by my bedside every night when we visited her in Lahore and tuck the razai under me on both sides.

Baingan Bharta

When I went to Lahore for the 2012 winter holidays, I didn’t sleep with my razai. But that’s just as well, because Ami tells me all the quilts were donated to the flood victims a few years ago. The terrace where Amma Subraayi used to sit is now gone, as is my Nani Ami’s rose garden that surrounded it. The roses were a neon-coral, particular to the subcontinent. As my Uncles’ respective families grew, the house was expanded and parts of the rear garden, where we used to have cups of green tea, disappeared.

Nani Ami’s dainty tea cups – mint green, duck-egg blue, dusty rose and powder blue – were still lined up in the glass armoire in the dining room. My Uncle says that I can have them. One day I will wrap them in newspaper sheets and bubble wrap so I can bring them to my home, here in Toronto. I forgot to have green tea in one of those cups on my last day in Lahore – the way I used to with my grandparents, sitting near the gas heater, shelling pistachios and chatting with them.

Baingan Bharta

Baingan Bharta

I didn’t get this recipe from Nani Ami. After the aubergine had heaved and sighed in the oven and I took it out to rest, I looked at the soft, velvety flesh, wondering what I should do with it. And I thought of her. Nani Ami’s cooking was pure; she used a few ingredients – ginger, onion, garlic, turmeric powder, red chilli powder. I don’t know what she did to make her dishes sing. But even a simple meal of chicken curry, lentils and rice made by her would turn into a family gathering, followed by a semolina and currant pudding and cups of cardamom-infused green tea.

I have put together a very humble aubergine dish, which I think I could have served alongside Nani Ami’s creations.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

*800g / 1.8lb aubergines
*3 + 2 tbsp neutral oil (I use sunflower)
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1 tsp roasted cumin powder (zeera)
*salt to taste
*½ tsp + pinch turmeric
 powder
*1-2 small green chilies chopped (optional)
*300g yoghurt
*½ tsp red chili pepper
*handful crushed walnuts, for garnish
*fresh herb of your choice

Preparation:

Step 1: Prepare the bharta; aubergine base
*Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F;
*Pierce aubergines with a fork and lay them on a tray lined with aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven turning every twenty minutes, for one hour and fifteen minutes;
*When they are ready, they will appear to be wilted and soft;
*Remove from oven and allow to cool;
*Scoop out the flesh from the aubergines, discarding the skin. 
Set aside;
*Place large frying pan on medium-high heat 
and add 3 tbsp oil.
*Add minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, (make sure the garlic does not turn brown). Add roasted cumin powder and stir for another 30 seconds, till fragrant.
*Add aubergine flesh, salt, ½ tsp turmeric and green chilies and turn heat to high.
*Sauté rigorously for 5 minutes, till you see that all the excess liquid has been absorbed.
*Turn heat off and set aside. Allow to cool.
*Transfer aubergine to a mixing bowl and stir in yoghurt till fully incorporated. Taste for salt.
*Transfer to a serving dish and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Step 2: Prepare tempered oil; tarka
*Place a small frying pan on high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. When hot, add a pinch of turmeric and red chilli powder and immediately remove from heat.
*Before serving, gently pour oil in a circular design over the yoghurt and aubergine mixture in the serving dish.
*You can serve it cold or at room temperature.
*Adorn with crushed walnuts and your favourite fresh herbs.

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Comments

  1. Lovely to see a recipe post from you Shayma after a long time:) BTW, the last pic – did you intend it to be like that?

  2. Lovely, Shayma. The chili oil is the perfect finish for this lovely dip

  3. What a beautiful post. I love aubergine dip and this baingan bharta is quite different from the Indian way of preparing it I believe.

  4. this is delicious dip 🙂 I am so inspired by your recipes Shayma

  5. Vaishnavi says:

    Thank you for the recipe, Shayma.

    I use the microwave, (around 8 minutes on full power – mine is 850W), to prepare the aubergine. The downside is I don’t get the smoky flavour that my nani used to get when she prepared it on the flame directly…

  6. YAY a new recipe!! thank you 🙂 this simple dish looks delectable. you really inspire me to get into the kitchen more often!

  7. also, i know you must be even busier now, now that you’re a mom, but have you ever considered creating a pinterest account? Your photos would look gorgeous on there, and it’s an easy way to share & organize recipes 🙂

  8. Lovely! Your description of the tea cups reminds me of one my mom has 🙂 We make a similar bharta too, yogurt based – lots of spring onions added. xo

  9. Gorgeous, velvety Baingan ka Bharta with yoghurt 🙂 The perfect kind of simple comfort food…

  10. I love the way you stitch the recipe and the storoy together. Good to see you back. How is the little one doing?

  11. Gourmand says:

    What a creative way of weaving the narrative about the “purple” duvet into the egg plant recipe. Fantastic post about a mouth watering side-dish!

    Gourmand

  12. Your description of razai brought back so many good memories of my childhood! I think what distincts them from the rest of the blankets is their cover that’s made from zari. The bright colors, beautiful silver/golden work on them with gotas (and god know what other designs and work). Just love them!

    • @Hera I am so pleased that my post reminded you of your childhood. It is interesting, isn’t it, how the strangest of things can trigger that sense of nostalgia. Thank you for your kind words.

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