Three stones; some kindling; a matchstick; a beaten up aluminum vessel. Can cooking get any more basic than this? We can’t beat the rustic woman at her art with all our four-burner-stove tops, induction stoves, microwave and conventional ovens even though there are only so many ways one can cook on such a basic apparatus — boiling, making rotis or roasting.
Ah! Roasting! Isn’t that how one makes baingan bharta?
What a versatile and simple dish that often needs no more cooking than the roasting! It is made in many parts of the country with the ingredients and method varying only slightly from one region to another.
For instance, the main ingredient that adds flavour to the Bengali version of begun pora is the mustard oil drizzled into the dish after adding chopped onions, green chillies and coriander leaves.
The Tamil version of katharikkai puli gotsu has raw tamarind (puli) pulp along with a tadka of mustard, urad dal, ginger, green chillies and hing. The heat of the roasted brinjal removes the raw smell of the tamarind pulp.
In some parts of Maharashtra, roasted peanut and dry coconut pieces are added to the vangyache bharit as it is known. But often only chopped raw onions, green chillies and coriander are used to give flavour to the dish.
The sutta badanekayi bajji of Karnataka also just has a tempering of mustard, urad and chana dal, red chillies and hing. Some add vegetables like carrots or peas and fresh grated coconut to the dish.
Of all the versions, the classic baingan bharta is perhaps the most elaborate as it is cooked like any other subzi. Onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies along with dry masala like chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala – the works – are used for this one.
Coming back to the stove we saw at the outset, I can well imagine that woman making this dish on her stove, roasting the brinjal in the flame below as her roti cooks on top!
I learnt this rustic version of baingan bharta from my maid while we were living in Madhya Pradesh. The recipe doesn’t have a drop of oil, as it doesn’t have even a tadka. Of course, she made it on my gas stove so you can try it too.
Purple brinjal (bhartewala baingan) – 1 (large)
Onion – 1 (medium)
Tomatoes 2 medium
Green peas – 1 small cup (boiled, optional)
Potato – 1 medium (boiled, peeled and chopped roughly)
Garlic – 4-5 cloves (peeled)
Green chillies – 2-3 chopped
Chilli powder – ½ tsp (optional)
Coriander leaves – a few sprigs
Salt to taste
Make small slits in the brinjal and insert the garlic cloves into them and press them well into the flesh. Roast brinjal on charcoal or gas flame till well cooked. The garlic gets cooked with it adding its flavour. Roast the tomatoes too on a low flame. Onions can be roasted if you have the time, as it takes a long time to cook well. Cool and peel the roasted vegetables. Mash well with hand – don’t use a masher or blender. Add chopped potatoes, green chillies, chilli powder, boiled peas and salt to taste. Mix well to combine. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Note: Apply a little oil on the brinjal to help the skin to stay firm while roasting.
The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!