For many, I am sure the name ‘Baingan Bharta‘ conjures up images of slow-cooked, delicious, hearty meals, often prepared by a loving mother or a doting grandmother. Baingan Bharta or eggplant mash made the Indian way is comfort food for a whole lot of locals. It is, for me too, but the smell I associate with Baingan Bharta is different from the usual.
Let me explain. Baingan Bharta is typically cooked by char-grilling a large eggplant on the stove till the skin blackens and the flesh within starts falling apart. The skin is then peeled away, and the flesh mashed and cooked in a pan, with various spices added to it. A smoky flavour permeates the dish, thanks to the char-grilling. This ‘smokiness’ is what most people look forward to, in a dish of Baingan Bharta. My version, which I learnt from my mom, does away with the char-grilling – here, the eggplant is cooked in a pressure cooker, then mashed and again cooked on the stovetop. There is no smoky flavour in our Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta, but let me assure you that it is equally delicious.
The pressure cooker method is faster and a whole lot less messy than the char-grilling method. It does not leave you with a messy stove that takes ages to clean up, afterwards. Also, since you cut upon the eggplant before pressure cooking it, you can always check for worms (they do have a way of getting in, in spite of no visible holes in the vegetable – eeks!). If you are not a fan of the ‘smokiness’, like the husband, this pressure cooker method works beautifully. Even if you do, do try out this version too – the result is so finger-licking delish that I’m sure you will like this as well. 🙂
Amma‘s secret ingredient in this Pressure Cooker is a wee bit of tamarind paste. It adds a whole lot of flavour to the dish – trust me on that! Purists can baulk all they want, but I will continue to love this method just as much. I grew up with this, after all. Now, this reigns supreme in my household, too.
Enough said. Let’s now check out the recipe, shall we?
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
- 1 large purple eggplant
- 6 medium-sized tomatoes
- 2 medium-sized onions
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- A small piece of tamarind (optional)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 generous pinches of asafoetida (hing)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- About 3/4 tablespoon garam masala or to taste
- Red chilli powder to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
- Salted butter as needed, to garnish (optional)
- Chop off the stem of the eggplant and peel it. Chop into large pieces.
- Take the chopped eggplant in a wide vessel and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add a little salt. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Meanwhile, peel the ginger, garlic and onion. Chop the garlic and onion finely. Grate the ginger finely. Keep aside.
- Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.
- Soak the tamarind (if using) in a little hot water for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, extract a thick paste from the tamarind. Keep aside.
- When the pressure in the cooker has gone down entirely, open it and get the cooked eggplant out. Discard the water the eggplant was cooked in. Mash the cooked eggplant using a masher, and keep ready.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add in the cumin seeds and the asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
- Add the chopped onions to the pan. Saute on medium flame till the onions begin to change colour.
- Add the grated ginger, chopped garlic and tomatoes to the pan. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy, about 2 minutes.
- Now, add salt and red chilli powder to taste, turmeric powder, garam masala and the tamarind paste (if using). Mix well.
- Stirring intermittently, cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the mixture comes together well.
- Switch off gas. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta is done! Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with slivers of salted butter, alongside rotis, parathas or dosas. Baingan Bharta goes especially well with makke di roti aka rotis made using cornmeal flour.
- For best results, use a fresh eggplant that is firm, with shiny and non-wrinkled skin. Make sure the eggplant has no holes in it, while you buy it – holes might indicate the entry of worms.
- Buy an eggplant that is light in weight in spite of its large size. This usually indicates that it will have fewer seeds and, hence, well suited to the making of Baingan Bharta.
- You may choose to add in the water in which the eggplant was cooked, too. In that case, you will have to cook the Baingan Bharta a little longer, till all the water is absorbed.
- I use ordinary refined oil to make this Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta. Some people use mustard oil or ghee instead.
- I use country (nati) tomatoes in this Indian Spiced Eggplant Mash, which are more sour than farm-grown ones. If they are sour enough, you can avoid using the tamarind altogether. I usually add both the tomatoes and the tamarind, since we like our Baingan Bharta to be tangier than usual.
- Use only a very small piece of tamarind to sour the Baingan Bharta. You may use lemon juice as needed, instead, too.
- Chana masala or a mix of coriander powder and roasted cumin powder can be used in place of garam masala.
- Make sure the eggplant is cooked well before mashing it and adding it to the pan. Cooking times might vary depending upon the water used, size of the eggplant, and make of the cooker. For us, 4 whistles works perfectly.
- Adjust the quantity of salt, garam masala and red chilli powder, as per personal taste preferences.
- If you do not plan to use the Pressure Cooker Baingan Bharta immediately, allow it to cool down completely and then store it in a clean, dry, air-tight container, refrigerated. This way, it stays for 4-5 days.
- We typically eat Baingan Bharta with rotis, parathas or dosas. However, you can also use it as a dip for crackers or as a sandwich spread.
- My mom uses a whole lot of oil in making this dish – she says this is one of those dishes that tastes best when cooked in a lot of oil. I disagree. 😛 I stick to about 2 tablespoons of oil while making this, and it still tastes equally delicious! Mom also prefers avoiding the garam masala, keeping the Baingan Bharta very basic – using just salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. I like adding either chana masala or garam masala – we prefer it this way.
Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!
This post is for the A-Z Recipe Challenge. The challenge was initiated on a Facebook Group, wherein a group of bloggers come together and we choose key ingredients alphabetically to cook and post a dish every alternate month. This month’s Alphabet is ‘E’ and I decided to use ‘Eggplants’ as my star ingredient.