Do you love Brinjal Bhaji but haven’t a clue how to prepare it? In this recipe you will see step-by-step how to go about.
My love affair with aubergine will never cease. I can’t remember when exactly it started but what I do remember is sending my ex-husband on a so-called wild goose chase years ago. Blogging has brought me many gifts – friends, good food and new experiences. Another thing is fluency of the English language. Through years of writing, words are easily manipulated and toyed with in my head. If I temporarily can’t come up with the right word, chances are there’s a synonym for it. If all else fails and my brain freezes and I become tongue-tied, I just play the “English is my second language”-card and I get away with it. Most of the time.
Anyhow, when I did my weekly meal planning I jotted down “brinjal” and handed the shopping list to my ex-husband. The word just happened to pop into my head before “aubergine” and “eggplant”. And off he went on his merry way. He took longer than usual and when he returned he was exasperated. Brinjal is not term commonly known to Brits and even after asking a shop assistant for help and trawling every aisle in the shop, they still came up empty-handed. Whoops.
The first time I came across Brinjal Bhaji on an Indian menu I was perplexed. Thinking of an Onion Bhaji, I wondered what greasy, deep-fried monstrosity would appear if I ordered it. What arrived was nothing like I imagined it would be and I never looked back, ordering it at every meal out. It was time to learn how to cook it from the best in the business, The Cinnamon Club.
In 2009 The Cinnamon Club won Best Restaurant at the World Food Awards and last year it received the accolade “Restaurant of the Year” at the Asian Curry Awards. It recently underwent a £1 million refurbishment, just in time for its 15th anniversary this month. To celebrate the occasion a special tasting menu has been devised by executive chef, Vivek Singh, and head chef, Rakesh Nair. Other events are also held this month, just check out the calendar.
Aubergine offerings differ depending on where you go in India. It can simply be sliced and fried. In Bengal it is mashed with mustard oil, raw onions and chillies. In southern parts of India it is cooked with coconut milk.
This version is a Punjabi dish which is twice cooked – roasted and then sautéed. What I especially like about this recipe is that it’s not drenched in oil which so many standard British Indian restaurants’ versions are. Aubergines are like sponges when it comes to panfrying them in oil. Before you know it, you’re sitting with a highly calorific, somewhat unhealthy plate of food in front of you. Instead, here the aubergines are cooked in their skins in the oven until soft then peeled and finely chopped. This dramatically reduces the need for oil and suddenly turns it into a ultra healthy, vegan meal.
You might wonder why different types of chillies are used in a single recipe. Surely, they all serve the same purpose. No. Dried chillies are actually used to temper and flavour a dish. Chilli powder is used to add heat to the food. At home I made this recipe again and went a bit easy on the chillies across the spectrum. It’s easier to add heat afterwards than trying to save a too spicy dish.
Head chef, Rakesh, pointed out that Brinjal Bhaji is the equivalent of the Middle Eastern Baba Ghanoush. It is best treated like a dip and served with naan or your favourite bread. It goes well with lentil dishes and makes a fabulous lunch.
A big plus is that this is a recipe ideal for bulk cooking. If you go to the market you can easily pick up six aubergines for £3 and have a mini-cooking session. As you can see from the pictures, it’s straight forward to make. Cook the aubergines in the oven first. Cool, peel and chop the flesh. Then it’s just a matter of frying all the ingredients in the correct order and adding the aubergine in the end. If you’d like to freeze the dip, omit the garam masala and fresh coriander because these ingredients don’t freeze well. Only after thawing can you add them for maximum impact.
Hello, Rakesh! A big thank you for showing us how to make the perfect Brinjal Bhaji.
What is your favourite way of enjoying aubergine?
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