Baingan ka bharta: Baba ghanoush with a Pakistani twist
In Pakistan, baingan (aubergines) are available only during peak summer season. Perhaps that’s why whenever summers are here, I immediately think of the nice old baingan.
The Urdu word bharta means mashed. Essentially, roasted aubergines are mashed and spiced in this recipe. It can be served at lunch with hot chappatis and salty lassi, which would automatically put you in a siesta.
The long summer days along with the intense heat in Pakistan makes one lazy and sleepy after lunch. The only thing needed then is a dark corner in an air-conditioned room.
Ammi (mother) would slowly char the round purple aubergines on her gas stove over open flame. The whole house would smell of it. I, however, roast the aubergines in my oven as I don’t have an open flame stove. The result is pretty close to ammi’s version except for the intense smoky smell that open flame charring adds to the vegetable.
So here is to the memory of long Pakistani summers, open flame cooking, being home for lunch every day, and afternoon naps in little cool corners.
Roasted aubergine – 250 grams (without skin – see the photos)
Oil – 4 tbsp
Tomatoes – 1 cup (finely chopped)
Onions – 1 cup (finely chopped)
Green chillies – 1 (medium chopped - mild)
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp (lightly crushed in a pestle mortar)
Fenugreek seeds (Methi danay) – 1 tsp
Dried red chillies – 2 whole
Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
Cumin Powder – ½ tsp
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
Salt – 1 tsp (adjust later if needed)
Lemon juice – ½ lemon (optional)
1. Roast the whole aubergines in an oven for 45 minutes at 180 degrees, and then put them in water for five minutes while hot. It will loosen the skin and make it easily removable.
2. Open the aubergine with your hand and scoop the cooked flesh with a spoon. Any Turkish grocer will have roasted aubergines sold in a bottle. You can use those as well.
3. In a pan, heat some oil and add cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and whole red chillies. Cook for about a minute on medium to high heat. Let it crackle.
4. Add chopped onions and sauté for another minute. Do not brown them.
5. Now add chopped tomatoes and cook for three to five minutes. Add a splash of water to loosen the tomatoes.
6. Add salt, chilli powder and cumin powder. Cook for a minute more. Don’t let it burn.
7. Add the aubergines pulp. Mix it well and cook on high heat for two to three minutes.
8. Now reduce the heat to low, add half of chopped chillies and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 20 minutes.
9. Once the oil comes out on the sides in the pan, garnish with fresh chopped coriander and chopped chillies. Serve hot. You can add a bit of lemon juice on the top if you like.
All photos: Ambreen Malik
This blog originally appeared here.
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