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Smoked Eggplant Baingan Bharta

Fresh Eggplants ripe this summer can be enjoyed the best when its a fresh from the farm and straight to the table. At my previous home, we used to pluck eggplants in the neighborhood  farm and the task of cooking them would be an under ten minutes job. I have yet to replicate the  sweetness of these  eggplants at any other restaurant!  Presently,  I do miss the proximity of such farms as available at my previous home. My experience says that the sweetness of these vegetables is even higher than what one gets when buying organic.

With summer almost in full swing, the outdoor grills are out in my neighborhood and neighbors and friends are enjoying grilling various vegetables. Eggplant baingan bharta is also made by grilling the eggplant. Many do this over a gas flame or microwave, but I wanted to approach this a little differently, keeping some of my Jain philosophy in place. Grilling a vegetable as a whole, is a no-no in Jainism , as there are chances of some worms inside the   vegetables, which might get accidently grilled or burnt in the process.  Hence we normally slice and steam it. And Jains will not also grill it for you may accidently kill some insects. But I still wanted to have the smoke flavour in my Eggplant Baingan Bharta.

So I decided to use a smoking box and insert this with lighted wood chips/coal amongst the vegetables and cover the vegetable to get the smoky flavor and the result was truly delicious and mouth watering. I was reminded of my home state in India where this is also known as Ringana No Oro- and is considered  a rural village delicacy , expertly cooked by farming community and served with other rural food accompaniments as Khicchadi Rice Lentil Entree and Bajri Rotla Millet Bread.

In the Northern India, this is often made without the skin, but I make it with the skin , as I like the eggplant for its rich purple color too,  and I am of the firm believer that the skins of the vegetables hold the maximum nutrients and besides it gives the cooked  vegetable a nice rich color of a night shade. The eggplant skin holds a lot free antioxidants that are also helpful in better skin and I also found on research that eggplants help in reducing triglycerides.

The smoked eggplant baingan bharta can be used a spicy dip and enjoyed with a pita bread or simple bread or you can relish this soft pulpy spicy textured entree with Roti, Paratha or Puri. Enjoy this also with any yogurt accompaniment in form of raita or lassi. If you have trouble finding a smoking box, you can experiment by putting the  chips/coal in an aluminum foil , light it and insert this in the vegetable and cover it with a lid.

If you are not an eggplant fan, I am pretty sure this smoked eggplant bharta will make you one!

Recipe Makes for 4 people

Cooking time 35 min

Prep time 10 min.

Smoking time : 60 min.

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 4-5 vine tomatoes ( campari tomatoes preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups medium diced yellow onions
  • 3 inches ginger with skin peeled off
  • 4 hot green chillies grounded into paste
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp sugar(optional)
  • 1/8th tsp asofoetida
  •  coriander to garnish

For smoking the eggplant baingan bharta

  • 3-4 coals or wood chips ( hickory or sugar maple) I used sugar maple chips
  • Ghee Clarified butter for soaking coal/wood chips
  • Smoking box or aluminium foil
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  • Match sticks to light
  • Slice the eggplants and  put to steam in a cooker adding 3 cups of water .
  • Remove from flame after 4 whistles.
  • On another flame put oil to heat in the  broadest thick bottom  pan you have
  • When the oil heats, add asofoetida  and chill ginger paste and saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Add diced onions and saute  on medium flame to nice golden brown color.
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  • Once the cooker cools, remove the eggplant and drain and save the cooked water.
  • Remove the skin from the eggplant and grind it in a mortar pestle.
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  • Add the grinded eggplant skin, tomatoes, salt, turmeric and drained cooked water to onions .
  • Simmer for 10 min.
  • Add the boiled eggplant plant, sugar and simmer for further 20 min.
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  • Soak the coal or wood chips in melted ghee for a couple of minutes,
  • Put the soaked coal/wood chips in the smoking box /aluminium foil and light it.
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  • Put the lighted coal /wood chips in the middle of the vegetables.
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  • Let the flame  burn for a two burn minutes.
  • Cover the vegetable with a lid and put weight on it if need be so that no smoke is released .
  • Remove the lid only at the time of serving, after keeping it covered for an hour or so.
  • Garnish with coriander , heat and serve with Roti Paratha, Pita  or Bread Slices.
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Microwave the ghee and then soak the wood chips in it, for an even coating and easy lighting.

Make sure the coal/chips are dry for it to catch flame.

Instinct Factor

In US, it is better to use wood chips than coal, as most coals are soaked in kerosene fuel and do not give a very appetizing fragrance.

Feel Factor

Rich in dark color, with a bit of tangy taste to the pulp of eggplant  and there is  depth in taste due to smoked  wood chips. Smoked eggplant baingan bharta is an entree that is simple yet rich  and  while devouring it and licking my fingers,  I  felt as if I was back in India, just enjoying this rural delicacy along with its traditional accompaniments.