I’ve perhaps been guilty of posting too many eggplant recipes in this space over the summer, but what can I say? I have little resistance to this wonderful, healthful veggie, and I cannot help but keep making it in every different way I can. Desi too loves eggplant, so I get no arguments from him when I cook it.
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.
Baingan Bharta and Naan go perfectly well together, the spices of one complementing the yeasty-soft freshness of the other. This meal sure lifted my spirits on a gloomy, wet day!
- 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.
- 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.