Konkani Baingan Bharta (Mashed Eggplant)

Baingan Bharta is an iconic Punjabi dish. It uses the large eggplant. There are now several regional variations of this very popular dish. I rarely make this as it involves roasting the eggplant on an open fire (to get a smoky flavour). Traditionally, it was roasted on a wood or charcoal fire (both not environment friendly). Today, most Indian homes do not have either charcoal or wood fires. Therefore, the bharta is prepared by roasting the eggplant on a gas fire. This is dangerous since the eggplant absorbs all the chemicals from the petroleum based fire.
I tried making a Konkan version of this dish by “roasting” in an air fryer. The result was outstanding.

1 large eggplant (baingan, kathrikai)
1/2 cup grated coconut
4-5 dried red chillies
1 small marble sized ball of tamarind (soaked in water and juice extracted)
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
1 tsp grated ginger
1-2 green chillies, chopped fine (optional)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, to garnish
Wash and dry the eggplant
Place it in the air fryer and roast, turning over frequently so that all sides are roasted
When done (you will know when a knife slides smoothly into the roasted eggplant), remove from air fryer
Transfer to a vessel and keep covered for a few minutes
Let it cool slightly
Wet your hands and remove the charred skin and the stem
Using a fork, shred the eggplant thoroughly
Set aside
Heat a wok and add the red chillies
Roast lightly
In a blender, grind coconut, roasted red chillies, tamarind/tamarind juice and coriander seeds
Blend to a fine paste, using very little water
Add this paste to the shredded eggplant
Add onion, ginger, green chillies and salt
Mix well
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves
Serve with steamed red/brown rice or Indian breads

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