It can be really tricky to recreate the things you love from restaurants. If you’re super talented, you might just wing it and make up a recipe. Then there are people like me who just keep trying new recipes, like a sucker, and getting frustrated when it doesn’t turn out right.
Indian eggplant dishes have given me the most frustration.
There’s something about Baingan Bharta that makes me need to learn how to make it. It’s creamy, a little bit spicy and warm. I had tried so many recipes – and even posted one – and never found the right mix of flavours.
Again, I was searching for the perfect recipe when I found something else… in a cookbook I’ve had for years.
Many years ago, there was a dish at a restaurant. I only had it once or twice before it was taken off the menu. It was a variation on Baingan Bharta, but with a distinct anise flavour. I love anise, and have never had a dish like it since.
2011, I flip through one of my lonely cookbooks, and find an eggplant dish with anise. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried it.
This is definitely the best Indian eggplant recipe I’ve tried yet. It’s so easy to make, and delicious to boot!!
Spiced Smoked Aubergines
modified from a recipe in The Low-Fat Indian Vegetarian Cookbook, by Mridula Baljekar
- 2 large eggplants
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 – 2 teaspoons hot chili flakes (optional, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon plain yogurt (I use Balkan style)
- Start the broiler in the oven, with the rack placed about 6 inches from the element.
- On each eggplant, make two lengthwise slits that cut about half way through (not all the way). Brush oil on the skin, and into the slits.
- Broil until the skin darkens and starts to blister, about 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. It’s OK if the skin starts to burn a little – it adds a nice flavour (and you will peel the skin off anyway).
- Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Cut each eggplant in half, and scoop the cooked flesh into a bowl. Mash gently, and set aside.
- In a sauté pan, heat the oil over low-medium heat. Fry the anise until they lightly brown (they don’t pop like cumin, so be careful not to let them burn!).
- Raise to medium heat, and brown the onions. Add the garlic, ginger and chili flakes. Fry until fragrant, about 5 minutes, then add the turmeric.
- Add the tomato, and cook until softened. Add the eggplant and salt, and cook for a few more minutes. Add the garam masala.
- Remove from heat, and gently stir in the chopped cilantro.
- Add to plates, and gently swirl in a small amount of yogurt (about 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon, depending on what you like!). Top with some additional chopped tomato and cilantro.