Once upon a few months ago, I went to Las Vegas. For a whole weekend. Stayed at the Venetian. Played all I want. Had a few margaritas. Saw a show. Wait..I'm coming to a point..soon.
So, I was saying..yeah..went to a couple of big Vegas style buffets too. But as soon as we drove into Vegas it was lunch time and we just wanted to eat something quick. So, went to the Indian restaurant, the one I always go to - Tamba. I like it because the food is decent and its never too crowded -a place to eat fast and get on your way to attack the slots. They really have to change their location and move out of the ghost town - I haven't seen any other place open inside that complex and its a little eerie in there. Feels like you're in Iowa and not Vegas. I still have a point. Just be patient.
Anyways, the last time I was there - I had baingan bartha. And the thing I loved about it besides the bartha itself was that they had big pieces of the small baingan (you still here??) floating around. I can't remember anything else I ate that day - but remember this clearly. Just like some people in your life that you remember always even though you met them maybe for a few mins while crossing the signal or while grocery shopping or while you are trying to get that last beautiful pair of shoes you've always wanted and this lady just comes and snatches it away from there ...just saying you know...like that.
So I set out on my own culinary adventure all the way to the heart of my kitchen to re create that baingan bartha.
Start off with the big whole Japanese eggplants. Just one of this will serve 2-3.
Wash the eggplant and towel dry it. Then, put a skewer through the eggplant. Apply regular vegetable oil all over the outside of the eggplant.
Directly heat the eggplant on top of a gas flame. This is tough to do on top of a electric cooktop - you can always cover the eggplant with foil, place on a griller and try it. Or if you want to use an oven, cover the oiled eggplant in foil, place on a baking dish and bake for about 15-20 mins or until the skin gets soft and starts peeling. The direct flame version is the best however because it provides a smoky flavor to the eggplant itself which translates into a delectable flavor when eaten.
Using the skewer, keep rotating the eggplant so all sides get cooked. You will have a little drippy mess - but hey, why do they make cleaners? Use them and clean up yourself later. You do the mess. You do the rest. At least that's what I tell TH when he cooks!
See how the skin shriks? The skin should come off easily when you try to peel. You are done then. Switch off the flame and let the eggplant cool a little.
Here's the real flavor. Garlic (lots of it), Ginger and Green chiili - my ggg. Chop roughly and make into a coarse paste.
Chop about 2 medium onions into small bits. Use lots of onions for bartha - it tastes really good. The more the better.
In a wide pan, add about 1 tbsp of cooking oil. Add 1 tsp of cumin seeds and let splutter.
Add the GGG paste and fry for a min. Then, add the chopped onions and saute for a couple of mins till the onions are done.
Now add about 2-3 medium sized tomatoes also chopped into small bits. Mix well and let this cook together for a few mins.
While that is cooking, completely peel and using the back of a fork, mash up the inside of the eggplant. I know this is not a pretty picture. But, not everything that looks good outside looks good inside too. Life lesson. But, its up to you to use this and make this taste as good as you want it to! Also life lesson.
Add the mashed eggplant to the onion tomato mix. Spice up time. Add all these below -
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Fresh Coriander powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Fresh Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Elaichi powder - 1 pinch
The juice from the tomatoes and the water content of the eggplant provides enough liquid consistency to the bartha. But in case if its too dry, you can add some water to give some body to the curry.
Close the pan with a lid and let this cook on low heat for about 10 -15 mins.
While that is going on, chop up long bits of about 4-5 small little eggplants (brinjals). In another pan, add about 1 tsp oil and cook these on a low flame. Sprinkle a little salt to taste. Make sure they are spread out on the pan and not on top of each other. Brown them up good or even take them to a good crisp.
The bartha's almost done now. Smells so good in here!
Now add the crisped eggplant pieces in here and switch off the stove.
Throw in a bunch of fresh and finely chopped cilantro in here.
Mix well and you're done. You can add lemon juice on top while serving if you like that flavor. I don't so I did not add.
Serve with hot hot phulkas or rotis or even parathas.
Enjoy the delicious meal and give yourself a pat on your back.
I just want to go back to Vegas now. Need a vacation.
Enjoy. Peace out.