Oven-Stovetop: Baingan Bharta with Our Punjabi Masala

April 13, 2023

Oven-Stovetop: Baingan Bharta with Our Punjabi Masala

I am not going to lie, I was nervous to use my jarred Punjabi masala with this dish. Eggplant has become a favorite for my husband over the last decade or so. Anyone that knows him knows how odd that sounds. He's an omnivore, eating anything though his mom was and still is a strict vegetarian. While he grew up outside of Chicago eating Indian food on weekdays, he and his dad liked grilling chicken and the like on weekends. The reality is that many Punjabi families are mixed eaters - some family members may be strictly vegetarian and others eat meat - why often we don't spend a lot of time judging the choices we simply adjust our recipes and our cooking techniques to make meals work for everyone. When we married in 1999, it was hard for me to get him excited about Indian vegetables like okra and eggplant. I think simply because he had not had them 'my' style. By that, I mean, a style that is truly ingrained in the cooking techniques of our Punjabi village of Bhikhi, which I talk a lot about in my cookbooks. My father grew up there and I grew up visiting our haveli (home) with its clay oven built towards the wall in our open-air courtyard and with my grandmother sitting on her manji (bed) barking out orders to our cooks. She was older and not able to see everything as clearly, but her mind was sharp and she knew exactly what needed to be done. That's where I learned how to take eggplant and char it beautifully on an open flame fueled by pieces of wood that crackled and spit out embers that not only roasted the purple skin so masterfully but also gave it a slightly wild and woody taste. If you have a wood-fired grill feel free to use it, but any oven will do the trick. If you want to make this recipe from scratch head here, but if you have a jar of our Punjabi masala on hand, you can whip it up in no time without compromise. I made sure of that after testing this recipe over half a dozen times. I also incorporated some cream at the end, which rounds out the flavors oh, so beautifully. I would recommend making some cashew cream - it is actually tastier in this dish than dairy. Shhhh....the hubby had no idea I made that tiny swap - and you're not going to tell him, are you? 

Oven-Stovetop: Baingan Bharta with Our Punjabi Masala
Makes 3 cups

3 medium eggplants with skin (large purple variety), each about 8-inches long
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-4 Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, pureed (discard peel)
1 tablespoon unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1-2 teaspoons red chile powder or cayenne pepper
½ cup Indian As Apple Pie Punjabi masala
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cream (dairy or cashew)

1. Set your oven rack to the second-highest position and preheat the broiler to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to avoid a mess later.

2. Poke a few holes in the eggplants with a fork or knife and place them on the baking sheet. Some rub the skin with oil – I don’t. Broil for 30 minutes, turning once in between. Remove the eggplants from the oven and set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.

3. Using a sharp knife, cut the eggplants lengthwise and carefully pull them open to release the steam. Scoop out the roasted flesh and any juice and put in a bowl. Discard the charred skin. You will have about 2 cups.

4. In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saute pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the hing and cumin. Stir and cook for 40 seconds. Add the fresh chiles, stir, and cook for 30 seconds.

5. Add the tomato, tomato paste, garam masala, coriander, red chile, Punjabi masala, and salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring. With a food press or potato masher, break down the eggplant as the ingredients cook and pull together. You can also blend this mixture with an immersion or a regular blender. Be sure to leave a little texture.

6. Fold in the cream and stir gently. Fish out and discard any stray pieces of eggplant skin. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve traditionally with roti or naan or as a dip. I often slather it over a large wrap and fill it with crunchy veggies for a filling sandwich. We don’t traditionally add cream, but I liked how it tempered the spices and mixed with the eggplant. And to be honest, I prefer the cashew cream. Its slightly sweet flavor profile blends well with the eggplant.

Watch me mash it up. And, while you are there, considering subscribing to my YouTube channel! Your comments and your support mean the world and truly keep me testing and writing.  

Watch me fold in the cashew cream ... use dairy if you prefer. 

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