Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan
Monsoon is the season when taste buds come alive spontaneously. The tongue searches for something delicious and hot. Succulent looking vegetable fritters along with tangy, spicy chutneys make one’s eyes water still one wouldn’t stop devouring it with full gusto or for instance some hot steaming vegetable gravy along with hot rice or chapatis that would tempt one to want more. Today is one of those days when I feel like cooking something hot, delicious and spicy for my ever appreciative family. Bhagara Baingan pops into my mind. Yes! That’s it!! The juicy tender brinjal stuffed with spices simmering in thick gravy of ground masala is a sight to behold! It is also called Nune Vankaya Kura in Telugu and is served usually with Biryani or bagara rice. The stuffing of nutty sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut along with the spices when cooked in eggplants, it absorbs all the flavours beautifully giving an irresistible delicacy. A versatile vegetable that goes with anything be it rice or chapatis.
I remember a funny incident relating to this vegetable. Few years back, when young the word Eggplant aroused my son’s curiosity. An Eggplant? A plant that grew eggs? He asked me about it and I was in splits much to my exasperation. Come on!! All he asked was a simple question and in return I gave this kind of reaction, NOT FAIR!!! Sensing his annoyance I said” my child an eggplant is a name of a vegetable that takes the shape of an egg poised on a plant”. The bewilderment on his face provoked me to say more about the “EGG PLANT”. I took him to a vegetable garden where one could see eggplant bearing plants. He was excited to see so many of them growing in various sizes and colours. Thinking about it now brings a smile to my face.
How does an eggplant benefit us? This vegetable is high in fibre and antioxidants that help prevent cancer, the fibre in it helps clear the toxins in the digestive tract and is found useful in prevention of colon cancer. It prevents Heart disease as it is rich in potassium, Vitamin B-6 and phytonutrients. It controls Blood Pressure and also good for those who have diabetes.
There are many varieties of brinjals, such as the thin long and green one which is meaty and is used predominantly in gravy items as the flavour of this one in particular gets enhanced with the spices added in it. The big purple eggplant is extremely popular in the North of India and in the Middle East Countries. Meatier and bigger than the rest this vegetable is extremely delicious to eat when they are roasted or grilled, of course few spices are added to enrich the taste of this particular one. Baba Ganoush, Baingan Bharta, grilled Eggplants tempered with herbs are some of the mouth-watering dishes one can get to enjoy using this variety of eggplant.
The popular one is the small variety of the eggplant species which come in purple colour with white stripes or in plain purple. They cook faster and have more flavour than the others. Whether eaten plain or cooked in exotic spices this particular vegetable holds out in its distinct taste. One such recipe is the Bhagara Baingan. Shall we take a quick look at the recipe?
Preparation Time- 45 minutes
10-12 Small eggplants
1/3 Cup onions finely chopped
1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
2 Sprigs curry leaves
½ teaspoon, turmeric powder
½ teaspoon, chilli powder
1 ½ tablespoon, tamarind pulp/paste
5-6 tablespoons, of oil
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnishing.
Ingredients for the stuffing and gravy base
* This has to be ground with very little or no water
3 Tablespoon Sesame seeds
4 Tablespoon peanuts (roasted and peeled)
3 Tablespoon Coconut/dried
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
6-8 garlic cloves
1 ½ inch ginger piece
3-4 green chillies (you may add more if preferred)
4-5 black pepper corns
1 ½ teaspoon cumin seeds.
Wash and wipe the eggplants.
Cut slit the eggplants into four parts keeping the stalk intact making sure they are just quartered slit.
Heat 2 Tablespoon of oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the eggplants slightly for around 3-4 minutes making sure it doesn’t get burned. Take out the eggplants form the pan and let it cool down a bit.
Once they are cooled take each eggplant and stuff it with the ground masala. Keep aside some stuffing/masala to make a gravy base.
In the same pan add the remaining 3-4 tablespoons of oil and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle add the curry leaves, asafoetida and fry for another few seconds.
Add chopped onions and fry until they are soft and pink in colour.
Add the remaining stuffing/masala and sauté on high flame for 2-3 minutes
Add chilli powder, turmeric powder and mix well.
Add little water and bring it to boil.Add salt and mix.
Now gently place the stuffed eggplants in the pan and with utmost care stir them with the masala base making sure their shape remains intact.
Cover and let it simmer until they are done, gently stirring them once or twice in between so that they are all cooked uniformly.
Lastly add the tamarind paste and mix gently.
Cook for another few minutes.
You can adjust the consistency of the gravy as per your requirement
Pour in a serving dish and garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with hot rice, Biriyani or Pulao.
Note*: Baingan is the Hindi name for Brinjal, Aubergine and eggplant.