Today’s recipe, Baingan Bharta, is, of course an Indian classic with many versions. My mom used to make it with yogurt and without tomatoes and, I think, she even added some coconut to it. Nothing but the eggplant itself was cooked. I do make that version sometime, with soy yogurt or just without any, and it is truly lip-smacking.
But this version that uses more spices and the richness of tomatoes was what I was craving today when the rain doused Washington and kept us indoors all day. That, with naan.
Naan is a popular north Indian bread that anyone who has ever eaten in an Indian restaurant would be familiar with. It’s a soft, pillowy, often triangular-shaped bread that’s baked in a clay oven.
I, of course, don’t have a clay oven so mine just gets baked in the regular oven. I try to make my naans healthier than restaurant versions by using a mix of bread flour and white whole-wheat flour. They taste just as delicious, without making you feel all sticky inside from that white flour, if you know what I mean.
2 medium eggplants or 1 large one, halved, placed cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet, and roasted in a 350-degree oven about half an hour until the flesh is tender.
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2-3 banana peppers, chopped (you could substitute serrano or jalapeno)
2 tbsp grated ginger
8-10 garlic cloves, grated or minced very fine
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds, powdered
1 tsp cumin seeds, powdered
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the onions. Saute slowly over medium to low heat until they start to caramelize and turn quite brown but do not burn.
Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute.
Add the coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and turmeric. Mix well and stir to toast the spices.
Add the tomatoes and banana peppers and, over medium heat, cook until most of the juices of the tomato have evaporated.
Scoop out all the flesh from the cooled eggplant skins and chop roughly. Add to saucepan. Mix well.
Cook for another 5 minutes until the eggplants and tomatoes have turned into a homogenous mush. Add salt to taste.
Turn off heat and add coriander. Mix well and serve hot with naan.
1 cup bread flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp yeast
2 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy yogurt
1/4 tsp salt
Water as needed
Sesame seeds for sprinkling over the naan (I use unrefined sesame seeds, but the white ones will do perfectly well)
Mix the two flours and the yeast and salt thoroughly in a bowl if making by hand, or in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the oil and yogurt and knead for about 10 minutes, using low speed if using a stand-mixer, to form a smooth dough. Add water if necessary.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat all sides.
Let it rise about 2-3 hours in a warm place.
Divide the dough into six balls. Let them stand around 10 minutes. Then, roll each ball into an oval, about 6-7 inches in diameter at the longest point. Make sure you roll out the naan evenly and don’t roll it out too thin, to ensure it puffs up in the oven.
Brush with oil and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of each oval.
Preheat an oven to 475 degrees, placing a pizza or baking stone on the middle rack. I just use four unglazed clay tiles that I bought long ago from a hardware store and they do the job just as well.
Place as many naans as possible on the stone without overlapping. I just bake two at a time.
Bake about five minutes. The bread will puff up and light brown spots will appear on the top when it’s done.
Serve hot with the bharta.