This dish formed a quintessential part of the lunch served on Makar Sankrati [an Indian festival] in my grand mother’s house from as long as I can remember.The comfy platter with kaali urad dal khichdi [black lentils with rice],hara baingan ka bharta [roasted eggplant], dahi [yogurt], mooli [parsnips], homemade ghee [clarified butter] and achaar[pickle] are my best kept ways of remembering and celebrating Makar Sankranti till now.
As mentioned before in my previous post,my grandmother’s house has a big vegetable garden. Almost all the winter lunches were served there on a charpai [four legged cot]under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of spinach, methi, cauliflower, garlic, onions,cabbage, radish, carrots etc. I have very fond memories of sitting on the charpai with lunch plate in my hand and picking up fresh leaves of garlic and onions and eating it with the meals. The taste of unwashed, organic stuff was unmatched under the warm rays of sun. I am a survivor of these homemade foods and authentic Indian dishes.A mention of winter lunches still takes me back to my granny’s vegetable garden and the food relished there during all my growing years.
In India,still the sil -batta [type of stone grinder] is used for grinding fresh spices for food, for making the chutneys and for other chores of the kitchens, I saw my mom using sil- batta to grind the herbs for making this dish.Those times were different with machines not being very popular and not widely used,hence the food preparations took more time and effort.You can see images of sil-batta here. Last week,her modern world grand-daughter prepared it in her American kitchen using a blender Of course, its difficult to recreate that sil- batta texture even by using a 12 speed blender but I guess that’s what moving and adapting with times is all about!Afterall,its the era of fast and easy food
Okay coming back to the recipe,this hara baingan bharta was made only once a year on makar sankranti.If you ask me,I do not know why. Maybe because it paired the best with the meal served on that day or maybe its got something to do with nip in the air.Talking. of which , I can really relate to the fact that the best cilantro,mint and other herbs are available in India during winters and since this recipe requires these herbs,may be that’s the reason! I wanted to make this bharta for a long time but was waiting for the temperatures to fall down. As a kid eating these recipes ,I never thought that I would be recreating them some 2000 miles away from home, in a new country, with modern age equipments and serving them to someone who came into my life[aka my husband] much later than I learnt all these things.There are so many times I miss while making all this, the company, the family, the laughs, the warmth, the festivals, home but I guess life takes on its course,for good. I m doing what I am doing right now for some reason! Thts my karma…oh sorry I am deviating … so I should stop now.
Coming back to food,in hindi green color is hara ; eggplant is baingan and bharta is a word used for any sort of mash. So this is green colored mashed eggplant …how easy is that!!!Now you need a lot of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves for this dish.If you are not a cilantro person, use parsley but frankly I havent tried it so I can’t comment on how it will taste.Another shining and irreplaceable ingredient is raw mustard oil which gives the bharta a pungent taste.If you find the taste of raw mustard oil very strong , just cook it slightly beforehand but for the authentic flavor, I recommend raw mustard oil, that’s where the actual bharta taste lies! If you want to use olive oil or sesame oil , go ahead and use it and just don’t call it a bharta then…call it a dip or relish ! The whole point is using a slightly pungent and strong flavored oil.Please refrain from using canola or vegetable oil…it will not work in this recipe.Also, I like my bharta on the spicy side so you will have to cut down the green chillies from what I have mentioned in the recipes if you like less hot.The recipe is darn easy with minimal basic ingredients.
What I need :
- 1 eggplant, big and fat
- 1.5 cups of fresh cilantro leaves [about 1 bunch][clean the leaves properly to remove all dirt and grit]
- 3-5 green chillies [adjust to taste]
- 1 ” shoot of fresh ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp dry mango powder [anchoor] [can be subsituted with fresh lime juice]
- 1/2 cup red onions , finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp raw mustard oil for drizzle
- 1 tbsp mustard oil for tempering
- Salt to taste
How I did it :
Roasting the Eggplant: Do any one of the following
- In Microwave : Micro the eggplant in a microwave-safe dish for about 7-10 minutes till the eggplant is tender and spongy to touch.
- In Oven : Preheat your oven at 400 F. Put the eggplant on a cookie sheet or any oven safe dish and bake for about 40-45 minutes.
- In Broiler : Heat the broiler to 425 F and broil the eggplant till the skin is charred.You will need to rotate the eggplant in between for even cooking on all sides
- On Stove Top [This is what I do]:Line the dripping pan of your burner with foil or the aluminium foil drip pans available in stores.Roast the eggplant on high flame on all sides till its soft and the skin is charred.
Making the Bharta :
- Once cooked ,let the eggplant cool a bit. Once cool to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Transfer the skinless eggplant to a bowl and using a fork or potato masher , just mash the eggplant thoroughly. [please do not use blender]. Set aside
- In the blender add the cilantro leaves,green chillies, salt , dry mango powder and make a smooth paste with minimal amount of water [if needed].
- Next, mix this cilantro paste with the mashed roasted eggplant, 2 tbsp of raw mustard oil and set aside.
- In a small pan , heat the 1 tbsp oil on high till it starts smoking slightly.
- For tempering :Once hot enough, add the chopped garlic and ginger and saute for 1-2 minutes till they start browning. Next add the chopped onions and cook till the onions are dark brown in color but not burnt.
- Just when you are ready to serve,to the mashed eggplant add the tempering and mix well.
- Serve warm immediately with chapatis or parathas [flatbreads]
- The taste and flavor of raw mustard oil is really strong, so adjust the amount of mustard oil as per your palate.
- To add more texture, you can add raw chopped onions, bell peppers, cucumbers etc to the mash and use it as a dip/relish.
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