Delicious Roasted Eggplant

19 Jun

Roasted Eggplant

One of the pleasures of living in this part of the world is the food. I have become exceedingly fond of nan baked in a clay tandoor, of juicy, tender meat generously rubbed with spices and dripping with flavor on an open flame, and of creamy, cooling raita with cucumber and roasted cumin.

Since arriving in Pakistan three years ago (has it really been that long?), I have learned to cook several of my favorite dishes. I always liked the food of the region, but living here has given me discernment, an invaluable gift that deepens the enjoyment of eating as it adds a welcome reference point.

This dish, called Bharta in Pakistan and India, is similar to baba ghanoush, the Arab dish. I like to roast the eggplant over an open flame, now that I have the use of a gas stove, but it can easily be done in the oven or the barbecue grill. The smoky, earthy flavor is a good contrast to the soft, creamy texture of the aubergine.

I do not like the taste of ginger with this particular dish, but I know some recipes call for it, so use it if you wish. I don’t add chili powder either, as the green chilies give enough heat for me, but if you like it hot, go for it.

 Ingredients

5-6 small eggplants (or 2 large ones)

1 large onion

3 large plum tomatoes

2-3 large garlic cloves

2-3 small green chilies

¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala*

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

 Method

If you have a gas stove, place each eggplant on the lighted burners, using long thongs to handle the vegetables as they sit on the open flame. Turn them carefully and often until the skin is black all around. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To roast the eggplants in the oven, cut the vegetables in half and lay them skin side up on a baking sheet (line it with parchment or aluminum foil to prevent sticking). Set the oven to broil and cook until the skin of the eggplants is roasted black.

Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin completely, making sure that none of it remains. I wash off the vegetable under a gentle stream of running water to clean it fully.

Chop the eggplant into small pieces and place the pulp in a colander set over a bowl and let it drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the onion very thinly, and chop the tomatoes. Mince the garlic, and if you can, grind it to a paste in a blender or use a mortar and pestle. Cut the chilies into small pieces.

Heat the oil until rippling and add the mustard seeds. Be careful because they pop. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and slighly golden. Do not brown.

Add the garlic and the green chilies, plus a tablespoon of water to prevent burning. Cook for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes. Pour in a splash of water and lower the heat to low. Cook for about five minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and glistening, and the oil comes to the surface.

Now add the turmeric powder, the garam masala and the salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.

Take the reserved eggplant and mash it with a fork or a potato masher. Add it to the cooking pan. Discard the liquid that has drained in the bowl.

Cover and cook the eggplant on low heat for five minutes. Add a tablespoon of water if it sticks to the pot. Stir and taste to check the seasoning. Adjust the spices if necessary.

Cook for a few more minutes until the eggplant looks soft and smooth. Serve with pita bread, nan, basmati rice  or a crusty baguette. It’s also great mixed with pasta, and I love it smothered with cheese in a lasagna.

*Note: Garam (Hot) Masala is a mixture of spices. You can make your own by toasting then grinding black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, broken up cinnamon sticks, cloves and black cardamom pods in a spice grinder. 

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2 Responses to “Delicious Roasted Eggplant”

  1. Courtney June 24, 2009 at 5:27 am #

    this looks luscious – a perfect way to use my eggplants that should see the light of day in late summer!

  2. aighmeigh July 3, 2009 at 3:58 am #

    You’ve made my mouth water!! :)

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