Smokey Fire Roasted Eggplants (Baigan Bhartha) with Basil and Bell Peppers: Spices and Seasons

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IMG_7522We have officially entered fall, yeah! My favorite season, I actually love the fact that I catch a lot of the rustling leaves, even in and out of my errands. Yesterday morning, as I looked out of the back porch, I was amazed to see the golden carpet of freshly fallen leaves, as if just emptied overnight. I looked at the calendar and sure enough, it said – First day of fall! It never ceases to amaze me how the seasons seem to know exactly what to do, despite all the hustle and bustle that emerges.

This time of the year, I begin cooking down a lot of the herbs that I know will not survive the cold weather, the top among these is the basil. Unlike mint, or even hardy rosemary and sage, basil does not survive winter and does need to be replanted every season. Today’s recipe for Baigan Bhartha, uses basil and sweet bell peppers with just a touch of garlic and ginger to produce a dish that is amazingly flavorful.

As I explain to people, the term bhartha means mashed, and it is essential that the eggplant is fire-roasted. If you have a gas stove, the best thing to do with the eggplant is to place it over the open fire and letting the skin char and completely burn. What this process does is to cook the eggplant and caramelize the flesh and infuse it with a deep smokey flavor.

The spices and style vary from region and households in India, in fact, this recipe even has my own “lohud grown” basil, but the key is the smoke infused flavors of the eggplant and the coarse mashing of the eggplant. The quality of the eggplant of course is important, they need to be the plump and young variety and the rest of the dish is mostly all about nature. This variation, like a lot of my recipes is gentle on seasonings, because cooking vegetables is about harmony and showcasing the essential natural flavors and the role of spices is to assist and support this process.

This recipe also makes a great dip, and would work well with your holiday platters, as it tastes great at room temperature and I am sure improves with keeping for a day, the second is my instinct because this never lasts more than an hour in my house, even the kids love it and we have yet to try it on the cat.

Smokey Fire Roasted Eggplants (Baigan Bhartha) with Basil and Bell Peppers

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

A touch of novely with basil on the classic Indian Baigan Bhartha. This recipe infuses fire roasted mashed eggplants with basil and pan roasted bell peppers.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized eggplant (about 11/4 pounds, together)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 pods of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup of miced basil leaves
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the eggplants on an open fire and cook until the skin is charred and burn. Turn the eggplant to faciliate this process, until the eggplant is uniformly charred.
  2. Cool the eggplant and carefully remove all the charred skin.
  3. Heat the oil and add in the onion and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion softens and turns transluscent. You can start this process while the eggplant is cooling.
  4. Add in the garlic and the ginger and then the bell pepper. Cook the bell pepper for about 6 to 7 minutes on low heat, this should essentially pan roast the bell pepper and release its sweet flavors.
  5. Add in the tomatoes and the poblano pepper and salt and mix well.
  6. Add in the eggplant and coarsely mash in the eggplant into the mixture, this should have a coarsely mashed and well mixed consistency.
  7. Stir in the basil leaves, add in lots of bell pepper and serve.
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About Author

Rinku Bhattacharya, the Spices & Seasons blogger, is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Spice Chronicles (formerly,Cooking in Westchester), where she shares her life experiences, original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years. Rinku is also the author of the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles an award winning (Gourmand 2013) cookbook, that highlights and offers many simple Indian recipes off the beaten path. Her second cookbook, Spices and Seasons, uses the approach in this column and marries Indian flavors with local and seasonal produce. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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