"Since eggplant is a ‘warming’ food, it pairs really well with cooling side dishes. I almost always serve Baingan Bhartha with yogurt on the side. Since Baingan Bhartha is a ‘dry’ curry with minimal gravy, it’s typically served with naan, roti or other bread." Lalitha
2 small eggplants*
3 tbsp ghee*(unsalted butter)
2-3 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2- inch piece ginger, crushed
2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 tsp regular or smoked paprika powder*
1/2 tsp (or to taste) red chili powder*
1/4 tsp turmeric powder*
1 small green chili pepper (e.g., Thai or Serrano), chopped finely
Few curry leaves (chopped finely)
1 to 2 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 or 1 tsp (to taste) garam masala
*Smallish globe-type eggplants about 1 kg or 2.2 lbs in total. Try to choose eggplants that seem light for their size (they have fewer seeds and therefore are less bitter).
*Ghee is similar to clarified butter, where all milk solids are removed, but cooked just a bit longer. Ghee has a slightly more nutty flavour than clarified butter. Ghee is a traditional Indian food. Mix ghee with oil to get the fluidity of the oil and taste of ghee.
*Spices – Too many spices can clutter the remarkable smoky flavour, so Lalitha likes to keep them to a minimum.
Set oven rack so eggplants will be close to the heat. Using a sharp knife, cut a line from top to bottom of each eggplant on four sides. Use a fork to poke several holes in the eggplants.
Preheat broiler to 550F. Line baking sheet with foil. Roast the eggplants for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. The skin will blacken; the eggplant may burst. Once the eggplant cools (you can place it in a bowl of water to speed this up), peel off the blackened skin. Don’t worry if bits of skin remain. Remove stems and coarsely mash the flesh by hand or use the pulse function of a food processor. Set aside.
Heat ghee and oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds. They will start to sputter. Add peppers, curry leaves and onion and sauté for 5-8 minutes until slightly golden. Add garlic and ginger. Sauté 20 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook until they're soft and the oil starts to leave the sides, about 5 minutes. Add water if needed to prevent spices from burning. Add salt, paprika, chili, turmeric and garam masala.
Add mashed eggplant and cook, stirring often, until it is well cooked and becomes mushy like a purée, about 8-10 minutes. Taste and add oil, salt or paprika (for colour) as needed. It has finished cooking when the oil separates from the curried eggplant. After sautéing, if you don’t see the oil separate, add another 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Sprinkle lemon juice over it and serve.
From the kitchen of Lalitha Mahadevan
Article: Diversity in the Kitchen: India