This is one of my favorite Indian recipes, and is in regular rotation at my house. The luscious texture comes from roasting the eggplant whole. It’s simple to pull together for a weeknight, and I made a triple-batch yesterday for a church potluck. I tend to make it on the spicier side, but the recipe has a sliding scale for the chilies.
The recipe comes from Neelam Matra’s cookbook 1,000 Indian Recipes. It was considered to be the best recipe in the cookbook by Food and Wine. Instead of chopping the onions, I puree the onions in a food processor with the garlic and chilies to make a smooth paste before sauteeing. Making a paste with the aromatics in this way is a common technique with other Indian recipes, and it allows you to focus on the texture of the soft eggplant, without pieces of onion getting in the way. I also puree the tomatoes as well.
BAINGAN KA SHAHI BHARTHA
1 large oval-shaped eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 large onion
1 large clove garlic
1-3 fresh green chilies
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 large tomato, or the equivalent of canned tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup heavy or light cream (half-and-half)
Poke a hole in the eggplant with a fork or knife. Place it on a small baking sheet, and roast the eggplant under the broiler in the oven. Broil it for about 10 minutes on 2 sides. Pull it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes until it’s cool enough to handle. Cut a long vertical slit down the side, and scoop out all of the eggplant flesh with a spoon. Discard the purple skin, but be sure to save all of the roasting juices.
Slice the onion, garlic, and chilies. Puree them in a food processor until finely minced, or in a a smooth paste. This will make the final dish smoother.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan. When hot, add the onion mixture, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the coriander, cumin, garam masala, cayenne, paprika, and salt. Stir for 1 minute.
Chop or puree the tomato. I generally puree it with a hand blender until smooth. You may want to grate the tomato with a large-hole cheese grater for a more rustic texture. Add the tomato to the pot, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Mix in the mashed eggplant and the peas. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Mix in the cream, and cook 1 minute.