Here is a dish that will perk up your weekend. Stuffed baby eggplants are a favourite dish in the north as well as the south of India. They are known by various names depending on the region, bharwan baingan, bagare baingan, bharli vangi to name a few.
It is not something that my mother would make though. Bengalis have other recipes for eggplants or aubergines like this and this, to name just two of many. But I liked the idea of stuffing small eggplants with a spicy, savoury, sweet and salty mixture and then slow-cooking them until browned all over. Doesn’t it make your mouth water just to think about it? Yep, that’s why you need to make it, because the end result is even better. Can’t get baby eggplants without buying an air-ticket first? Well, just make it with whatever aubergine variety you get, if they are big, just dice them up and slow cook with the stuffing spices. The following is one of a couple of versions that I have made. It might look a bit involved, but totally worth it!
RECIPE: STUFFED BABY EGGPLANT/AUBERGINE – Bharli Vangi
Ingredients (note: don’t be put off by the length of the list, I have made various versions without some of these ingredients and all versions have tasted good)
10-8 baby eggplants (I got mine from an Indian store) or one large eggplant (ubiquitous)
grated coconut – 2 tbsp (optional)
peanuts – 2 tsp
coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
cumin seeds -1 or 1/2 tsp
curry leaves -8-10
mango powder – 1 tsp (or lemon juice to taste)
2 dried red chillies (or hot paprika powder)
sesame seeds – 1 tbsp (optional)
Dry roasted chickpeas 1/4 cup (or chickpea flour) (optional)
2 large onions finely chopped
2 tbsp oil for cooking
Process: Get a bunch of these beauties
- Cut off the stalk ends and make two gashes three-quarters of the way from the cut end or the rounded end. Soak in water while you prepare the stuffing.
- Dry roast all the seeds, nuts, leaves and coconut. Start with the peanuts first, then add the red chillies, then the coconut and then the rest
- Add the powders once you smell the fragrance of the seeds
- Make a coarse powder in your handy coffee grinder.
- Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the onions
- While they are sauteéing, add a generous amount of salt to the stuffing mixture.
- Shake off the water from the eggplants and carefully insert some of the spice mixture into the gashes. If the mixture looks too dry, add a splash of water so that it barely holds together. Don’t worry if the mixture keeps falling out as you try to stuff it inside the gashes. Just do it over a large plate so that you can collect all the spilled stuff at the end.
- Nestle your eggplants in between the onions. Pour all the surplus stuffing mixture on top.
- Proceed to cook over a medium low heat, lower the heat even more if your onions start to burn before your eggplants are cooking. Put a cover to speeden up the process and conserve moisture so that you don’t have to add any water. I used a lid from a saucepan that was slightly bigger than the frying pan.
- Intermittently, turn the onions and eggplants very carefully so that things cook evenly.
- You are ready when everything is nicely browned and your eggplants are tender and creamy inside (just press down with your finger or a spoon to check). It took about twenty minutes for me.
Enjoy this dish with a fresh salad and maybe some plain rice.