It was back when I traveled to Istanbul in 2018 and tried Ottoman Palace Cuisine at Asitane is when it clicked to me. I found my love for food that brought together tradition, culture, and history. I always loved food in a way that I can’t express. Instead of being a generalist or categorizing myself as that cringeworthy adjective that is “foodie” I wanted a specialism. I craved, no pun intended, for a better description of how much I loved food and the type of joy it brought me. I spend a fair share of money on eating out, sourcing ingredients and traveling for food. Therefore, my food experiences are the bones of where most of my experiences and understandings come from. For a while, I thought food inspired me, but I think it’s not quite that. I think food describes me.
In the last two years, I’ve been focusing more on building my experiences around food to bring together friends, family, and intensify travel experiences. It’s a no brainer, but I wanted to find a way to enrich what I was “feeling” when I ate good food. This way when I tell a story I can describe an ambiance, share my childlike anticipation, and express my first mouthfuls all in gastronomical literacy.
So when I was asked to share some of my family’s recipes on the blog I knew I would have lots to say. With roots going back to Persia and presently India, my family’s baingan bharta recipe is slightly different than the ones you would traditionally eat in a restaurant. We prefer our heat to come from freshness as my ancestors spent so much time along river banks battling the arid lands of Gujarat.
The eggplant, like any baingan bharta recipe, is grilled then beaten with a garlic-ginger-chili paste. We prefer our baingan bharta recipe to incorporate the aromatics of cumin, the depth that garlic brings, the heat from green chillies. Of course, no baingan bharta recipe is possible without turmeric and ginger. It’s vibrating with acidity, full of vigour, and multidimensional in flavor.
Wash the eggplant and let it dry completely. Roast according to whatever appliances you have:
If you have a gas burner with an open flame, then score the eggplan skin and roast on the open flame for 8-10 minutes. Turn every 1-2 minutes. The skin should be blistered and very soft at touch. You can prick it further with a fork to check if its cooked from the inside. It should be a very mushy consistency. If not, roast for a few additional minutes.
If you are roasting in an oven, preheat the oven to 400F. Slice the eggplant in half and baste the skin with additional avocado oil. Roast for 30 minutes.
Grind the onion, ginger, garlic, and green chili and set aside. Once the eggplant is roasted and cooled, remove the skin. Remove as much as you can, but don’t worry if there are small pieces still left. It will add to the charred flavor. Also remove as much of the seeds from the middle as it will give the bharta a slightly bitter taste.
In a large saucepan, heat the avocado oil over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and let it sizzle for a few minutes. The color will become browner and the oil will become more fragrant. Be careful not to burn the cumin. Then add the onion mixture to the cumin oil and saute for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat. Season with salt accordingly. Once the onion mixture is cooked through, add in the turmeric, ground coriander, and roasted eggplant. Season with salt accordingly. Stir over medium-high heat for 5 minutes then use a potato masher to mash the bharta directly in the pan. Use a push down and twist motion to ensure you flatten and breakdown the mixture.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and fresh coriander leaves. You can eat this baingan bharta with Indian bread, pita bread and hummus, or alongside daal and rice.