I know I know — Baingan Raita may not sound exotic, complicated or even worth a recipe. But it is my new favourite way of consuming Baingan (eggplant/ aubergine/ brinjal), for a few reasons actually. In my opinion, Baingan doesn’t have a very distinctive flavour of its own. It takes on the flavours and aroma of the other ingredients and cooking process, making it very adaptable to different preparations and cuisines.
My favourite is the smoked aroma and flavour achieved by blackening the vegetable over an open flame – ideally wood or coal, but we have to make do with a stove-top fire!
The reason(s) that this is topping my list right now is that it is a lovely cold dish for the summer and can be had as a main course as well; it is a quicker and more direct way of preparing smoked Baingan than making a Bhartha; in my (non-expert) eyes, it is a calorie-light food item and I can reach for seconds and thirds without agonising about how much I will have to run to burn those calories!! Do you think I need any more reasons?
Oh, as for those of you who turn up your noses at Baingain, you have no idea what you’re missing!
Here’s what I used for 1 very large serving:
1 medium baingan/ eggplant (approx 200 gms)
1 small onion
1 green chilli
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt
pinch each of red chilli powder & roasted cumin powder
1/2 cup yoghurt
Here’s how I made it:
I smeared the baingan with a little oil, using my fingers, and placed it on high heat – directly on the stove. There is a cheap wire mesh contraption available in the market which helps balance the baingan better and keeps the stove clean but mine is broken. So I had to take my chances!
I kept roasting the baingan on high heat, turning occasionally to allow even cooking, until it was charred and peeling all over — approximately 8-10 minutes.
Carefully lifting it off the flame, I placed it in a glass dish and immediately covered it with a lid. Leaving it there for 10-15 minutes allowed it to cool a little so it could be handled. More importantly, the steam and residual heat loosened the charred skin so it was a breeze to peel off!
Once it was cool enough to handle, I peeled the charred skin and wiped the skin a little to get the most burned bits off. If you wash it under running water, there’s a chance of compromising the smokey flavour and aroma, so gently wiping is a better approach .
I placed the flesh in a bowl and roughly mashed it with my hands.
I chopped the onions, green chillies and cilantro finely.
Adding the chopped veggies, yoghurt, salt and spices to the mashed baingan, I gave it a good stir.
Garnishing with a little cilantro, I dug in! I like to have this by itself as a light lunch or dinner. But it goes extremely well with a spinach-y/ herb-y/ dal pulao or even with namak-mirch paranthas!