Baghare Baingan | Spicy Eggplant Masala
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12 servings
 
Ingredients
EGGPLANT MASALA
  • 8-10 small, round Indian eggplants or use one large American, chopped in medium pieces.
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander powder or 2 teaspoons of whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red cayenne powder (more if you want spicy)
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek/methi seeds
  • 2 tablespoons desiccated, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (unsweetend) or raw peanuts
  • 1 heaping teaspoon tahini paste or 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoons white poppy seeds
  • 1 plum size ball of wet tamarind
  • 4 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, optional
TEMPERING SPICES AND OIL
  • ⅓ cup neutral flavoured oil, Canola, Vegetable, Grapeseed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 dried, red chillies
  • 12-15 curry leaves
  • slivers of whole garlic, optional
Instructions
  1. Rinse the eggplants and then quarter them keeping the stalk end intact.
  2. Let them soak in cold water while you make the spice paste.
  3. In a dry cast iron skillet or fry pan, dry roast the whole spices one at a time:
  4. Cumin seeds, coriander seeds if using, fenugreek seeds, sesame seeds if using instead of tahini, white poppy seeds, raw peanuts if using instead of peanut butter and coconut.
  5. Dry roast individually until fragrant and toasted.
  6. Watch the coconut, it will brown very quickly and can burn.
  7. After all the spices are done, grind them in a spice grinder.
  8. May have to do this in batches.
  9. In the same pan, add a drop of oil and sauté the onions till light brown.
  10. We are dry roasting them too with a touch of oil.
  11. Once the onions are done, allow them to cool.
  12. Using a blender or food processor, grind the onions to a paste.
  13. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, red cayenne powder to the onions and mix.
  14. Add the dry roasted freshly ground spice mix to the onion paste.
  15. Now, if you did not use the whole raw peanuts and sesame seeds, add the tahini paste and peanut butter now.
  16. Mix all the pastes together to make an onion-spice masala.
  17. Drain the eggplants and stuff each eggplant in the centre, through the slits, with the masala.
  18. You probably will have masala left over, just save that to add to the curry.
  19. We just want some masala permeating the flesh of the eggplant before we fry them.
  20. Leave them to the side to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  21. Meanwhile, soak the ball of tamarind in the 4 cups of warm water.
  22. The tamarind will soften and release its tangy essence into the water.
  23. In a big pot, heat the oil to quite hot on medium heat.
  24. Add the tempering spices and the curry leaves...watch out, they will splutter.
  25. Once you can smell the cumin seeds and the garlic slivers are beginning to turn golden brown, add the eggplants one at a time.
  26. Add the remaining masala too and cook in the oil.
  27. Turn the eggplants gently and brown.
  28. Make sure the masala is not sticking to the bottom.
  29. Drain the tamarind water through a strainer into the pot.
  30. Stir gently to make sure everything is loose and moving around.
  31. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer gently till the eggplants are softening, about 20 minutes.
  32. If you are using a regular eggplant, it will take less time for the eggplant to soften.
  33. Once the eggplant is softening, remove the lid and simmer uncovered.
  34. Check to see if you find it tangy enough, if you would like more, then soak a bit more tamarind and add the water to the pot.
  35. You want the oil to surface and most of the water to evaporate leaving a rich, spicy masala.
  36. Don't dry it out too much, as soon as some of the oil begins to separate from the solids, turn it off.
  37. Taste for salt, tanginess and spicy heat.
  38. I like mine with a touch of sweetness along with the tangy, I sometimes add a teaspoon of brown sugar.
  39. Sometimes the onion is sweet enough to balance that out and so I don't need the sugar.
  40. Dish out the eggplants carefully onto a platter or bowl and then pour the rest of the masala over the top and sides.
Notes
Lately, I've been making my life easier by using tahini paste and peanut butter. I always have tahini paste in my pantry and I keep a natural, unsweetened peanut butter for cooking purposes in my fridge. It does make it easier to have a few less things to grind. The curry leaves are important to this dish. It's not the same without them. They have a wonderful, distinct taste that add the "south Indian" touch to this dish. If you don't like eggplants, drop a few boiled eggs in their place. The sauce is the treasure, it won't be the famous baghare baigan but at least you would get to try it.
Recipe by Coffee and Crumpets at http://www.coffeeandcrumpets.com/baghare-baingan-spicy-eggplant-masala/