November 7, 2013

Thinking out-of-the-box with baby eggplants ~ Achari Baingan~

Our Sunday morning visits to the local farmer's market have become a weekly ritual that I really look forward to these days. Heading out to pick veggies for the week, brings about an innate sense of responsibility and satisfaction of going the extra mile to take care of the self. The soothing sight of fresh and vibrant produce complement the hustle and bustle of the accompanying frenzy and bring back pleasant memories of visiting a busy Indian vegetable market (much more cleaner and organized though!). 

If given an option, I would just about buy everything that looks fresh and appetizing. It's really that tempting! But one of the challenges that I often face when I am back home, is to step out of my thinking box and try something new especially when on a time crunch. The biggest criteria being - it has to be appetizing as well as healthy and easy to cook for a regular day to day meal.  Personally, I try to experiment as much as I can by trying out altogether different recipes or on some days shake up things by making small changes in my cooking style (adding jeera as opposed to mustard seeds and so on).

Quite often, some vegetables have such constricted uses that I shudder at the thought of having to make them the regular way. One such veggie is the baby eggplants. I am sure there must be several ways of preparing them, but one dish that distinctly flashes the most is “Bharwa Baigan”. But last Sunday when I picked a dozen of those from the farmer’s market, I mentally swore that I would make anything other than the usual bharva baigan. It's is indeed very delicious, but it is also quite tedious and time consuming. So as I let my imagination play with these glossy baby eggplants, my main aim was to come up with a recipe that was simple to cook in a time crunch along with being excellent in taste.

So here’s the recipe from my experiment with these baby eggplants.

~Achari Baingan~ 

Melt-in-the-mouth baby eggplants and thinly sliced onions seep in the spicy and tangy tomato-yogurt base to make a quick and easy achari (pickle-like) side dish. Perfect for serving up a grand meal at a short notice. 

Ingredients: (Makes 3-4 servings)
12 nos. Baby eggplants
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli powder

3 T Mustard oil (You can use any oil for this).
Pinch of asafetida powder (Hing) (Optional)
1 Medium onion Sliced thinly

Mix together the following:
Two medium tomatoes pureed
3 tsp Sambar powder
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp sugar
Salt to taste

2 T yogurt
½ tsp garam masala
Chopped cilantro to garnish.


1. Make two perpendicular cuts in the form of a cross at the base of the eggplants. Sprinkle salt, turmeric powder and chili powder and massage the insides of the eggplants. Keep aside for 10-15 mins.

2. Over medium heat, add 2 T oil into the pan and once its heated, add in the marinated eggplants. Stir fry for about 3-4 minutes till the eggplants are charred slightly on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. In the same pan, add 1 T of oil to the remaining oil. Once it’s heated up, add in the hing and sliced onions. Sauté till the onions soften and are pink in color (~ 1-2 mins).

4. Now, mix in the dry masala with the tomato puree and add to the oil. Add ½ C of water and let it boil for about 3-4 minutes till oil floats on the top.

5. Once the oil floats on the top, add in the sautéed eggplants into the masala and sauté till the eggplants are soft.

6. Now add in the yogurt, mix well and sprinkle in the garam masala and cook for 1-2 mins. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

1. To quicken the process further, add a little bit of oil to the marinating eggplants and place in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. This softens the eggplants and reduces cooking time on the stove.

2. To make this dish fancier, you can add a tadka of mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves at the end. It adds a touch of sophistication to the dish and yes the extra love too.

3. I use mustard oil to make it typically achari (pickle-like), you can use any oil that you may want.

Having experimented with these charming eggplants, I was immensely satisfied with the result. It was all the more gratifying that I finally chose to do something with these gorgeous eggplants other than the usual Bharwa baigan. Serve it with plain rice and dal or some fancy pulao, this is a must-make vegetarian dish for all us eggplant lovers.

Don't be afraid to play around with the recipe.Have fun experimenting! :)


P.s: I am sending this recipe to:
- "Diwali Bash-2013" hosted by Vardhini from Cook's joy
"Let's Cook with yoghurt" hosted by Nayna