Monday, February 3, 2014

Purple Brainwave--Baghara Baingan or Masala Stuffed Eggplant

Super Bowl hoopla is over and with that all the detritus of game day food! No more buffalo wings. No more guacamole. No more burgers. No more pizza.. Although the latter was, rolled grandma style, slathered with pesto, mozzarella, goat cheese and marinated cherry tomatoes. Now my taste buds yearn for a spicier meal. A mouthful filled with masala. And I think the perfect side with my dal and rice would be baghara baingan.

Baghar translates into stir frying. And baingan is the Hindi equivalent of eggplant. Not the big, shiny pear-shaped lobes I use for Eggplant Parmesan,  but the small purple kind. These miniatures are perfect to stuff and stir fry. They cook fast, hold their shape and don't have too many seeds. Eggplants, or as the English call them, aubergines, come in so many shapes and sizes. The large glossy ones, the small 2 inch long ones, the elongated, pale purple-hued Chinese ones and then there are tiny, kumquat-sized, zebra-striped green Thai ones. Prep time varies with each type. They aren't 'substitutable' or interchangeable in recipes. You couldn't make Baba Ghanoush with the long Chinese kind as they don't hold up well over an open flame. But use them in a stir fry and they turn golden brown and mushy in a matter of minutes. Thai eggplants are full of seeds, making them a little bitter in curries or stir fries. They are quite exceptional in Indian vegetarian sides. 

I have preserved this faded typewritten version for decades. The origin is lost, but I must've found it in the mid 70's as the typewriter ribbon died in 1977. Those days I practiced my stenography skills by writing recipes. Gosh! I use these words and sound like a relic of the past! But those days were an adventure. This huge machine sat atop my desk made me feel all grown-up. It made a clackety-clacking clicking sound as I enthusiastically punched keys. The inner iron-stemmed semicircle visible to the naked eye, dancing across white, marking out sentences. Most of mine had mistakes being the tyro that I was. Those ancient practice sheets fill my binder and the eggplant recipe is one of the few that still retains its magic. Lets get back to the matter at hand. I should be grinding two types of masala. But I demur. Time is of the essence. I amend, alter and adjust.

Serves 2

6 small Eggplants
1 tablespoon Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Black Sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 heaping teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup Water
2 tablespoons Canola oil
2 tablespoons prepared or bottled Green Chili Chutney 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons plain Yogurt
Cilantro to garnish

Wash eggplants. Dry and trim the stems. Make  two cuts in an + shape going down about 3/4 quarters, taking care to leave the eggplant whole. You should be able to pry open the eggplant easily. Look at the picture below.

Stir the garlic paste, sesame seeds, chili powder, paprika and salt into a thick paste. 

Stuff the eggplants with this paste. You could use a scant teaspoon for each eggplant. 

Add 1/4 cup water to leftover paste. 

Heat canola oil in a non stick saucepan over a high flame.

Carefully place eggplants in oil and sauté on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add green chili paste and salt and stir to mix in.

Pour water into saucepan.

Lower flame  and cover saucepan with a lid.

Let eggplants cook on low for 10 minutes. Stir them occasionally.

Whisk yogurt till smooth. 

Just before you serve dribble yogurt over hot eggplants. 

Garnish with chopped cilantro.


I used a prepared bottle of Green Chili Chutney. The other alternative is making chutney by grinding 1/2 cup Cilantro, 2 green chilies, and salt with a little water.

Adjust your spice ratio to your taste.

Eggplants are soft and tender. They swim in a little sauce. Cool yogurt over hot veggies tastes much better than it sounds. A little daal, a spoonful of rice and a forkful of baingan equates a marriage made in heaven. Purple is my favorite color today.

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