Everyday Indian Food
Without overstating it, I think there is something a bit regal about an aubergine. The deeply rich shade of purple; it reminds me of the most glorious Royal Robe. The kind with the white fur trimming.
This dish is a complete transformation of this royal vegetable – a de-robing if you will. But the transformation, once complete, is a feast fit for Royal taste buds.
The smokey flavour, the warm spices, the newly revealed warm auburn colours; autumn on a plate. Perfect symbolism for this transformative season.
Transformations are dramatic, and this one is no different.
Place your aubergines (I have three medium -large ones) directly on your gas burners – on full flame. It will make a mess, but your house will be filled with that cozy smell of a traditional wood burner.
An oven or grill works too, but you’ll miss that charred smokey flavour. A barbecue of course also works if you want to avoid the mess over your cooker top. Live a little.
You are looking to cook the aubergine through to the middle. Turn the aubergine over a few times to make sure all sides are done – including the bottom. Don’t worry if the juices come pouring out.
The aubergine needs to be deeply charred all over – the skin will become burnt and flakey. This should take around 20 – 30 minutes.
Golden flesh pierces the broken skin – just teasing you.
When they’re done, take the aubergines off the gas, place in a bowl, and cool them down in cold water.
Gently peel away the skin. Rinse them gently by dipping them in the water. Don’t worry if bits of charred skin remain – it just adds to the flavour.
If the skin does not come away easily, or if too much flesh comes away with the skin, you haven’t cooked the aubergines long enough.
When pealed the aubergines look a bit like a broken Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Slain.
There will be a happy ending. A second coming. Be patient. Be brave.
Chop off their heads.
Lightly break up the aubergine; the back of a spoon or the flat of a knife will do the trick.
It will all mash up anyway in the dish, but try not to make it into a paste – you want to keep a little texture.
For my three medium-large aubergines, I am using two large onions. Roughly chop these into 1cm pieces.
In a pan or wok, heat up some oil (approximately three table-spoons of Olive Oil). The onion will absorb this pretty quickly, and you don’t want the final dish to be too dry, so don’t be shy about adding a little more oil if needed.
As you are loosing a lot of texture in the aubergine, make sure the onions keep their shape.
You are looking to cook them so they are translucent, and golden in colour (about 10- 15 minutes of cooking on a medium heat), not caramelised.
Once the onions are golden, they are ready for everything else.
My spices are:
– 2 tsp coriander powder
– 1 tsp (heaped) paprika powder -(known as Kashmiri Mirch – it adds colour and flavour)
– 1 tsp (heaped) cumin seeds
– 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
– chilli powder to taste (I added 1/2 tsp for a little background heat)
– 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
Give the cumin seeds a boost by adding them straight into the hot oil at the start if you like. But adding them together now as I did also works well.
At this stage I am also adding:
– 2 tbs tomato paste (you can dilute this in a little water to avoid any lumps)
– 1 inch of finely chopped ginger
The colour is instantly apparent. The tomato paste gives the turmeric and paprika a great boost.
Gorgious terracotta, a fiery auburn.
Mix and gently cook for 10 – 15 minutes to allow all the spices to blend together and cook. Make sure this is on a slow heat to avoid sticking.
Serve with a garnish of fresh coriander leaves.
I ate my Smokey Autumn Aubergine in a soft warmed tortilla wrap – all rolled up with the hot Bharta oozing out.
Bhangan ka Bhartha (literally ‘mash of aubergine’) is more traditionally eaten, of course, with a freshly made hot roti (flat bread or hot naan). There is nothing better.
Have this as a main meal for something light, or a side dish if you dare hide it away as an after-thought to your meal.
No flat bread? Spread on toast, or eat off crackers or nachos like a more colourful babaganoush dip.
Regal Aubergine. Slain and Resurrected. Enjoy.