Spiced Baby Eggplant in Tomato Sauce {Achari Baingan}

Achari Baingan

The Grand Trunk Road aka G.T Road spreads from West Bengal all the way North up to Afghanistan. It is one of South Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. I recently bought a cookbook called “Food of the Grand Trunk Road” and its about how food changes as you travel on the GT road. Its fantastic on explaining each region and the cuisine originating from there, supported by a bunch of recipes from each region and great photography of the food and the cities. A great buy I must say.

This recipe is based on the Achari Baingan recipe from the book. The recipe is from the Bengal & Bihar (western India) section. However, I grew up at the Delhi & UP border (Northern India) and had this dish quiet regularly as a child. Its amazing how recipes travel! This recipe is based on the one from the book but tailored to what I remember eating growing up. The difference is that of mostly spices. I remember a lot of time during my summer break, my mom would make something similar and we (me, my sisters & mom) would eat it fresh, straight out of the pan scooping the eggplants with chapatis. What fun!!

I served it with naan but it will taste really good over some plain couscous. Unlike other Indian recipes, its neither too complicate nor takes a long time to put together and the flavors………..they get better as this dish sits on your counter. So make it around lunch time and have it for dinner or have its fresh, straight out of the pan with your choice of Indian bread.

Achari Baingan

Achari Baingan

Achari Baingan

Serving 2 to 3 People

Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the masala (spice mix)

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp ground dried red chili

salt

In a mortar & pestle add all the spices and grind/pound till the fennel seeds turn granular. This process can also be done in a coffee grinder but if you do it with a mortar & pestle it will help release the flavor slowly and you can better control the texture of your fennel seeds – which needs to be granular.

Rest of the ingredients

Baby eggplant, 6 to 7 – washed and dried

4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1 large red onion, finely chopped

a small piece of ginger, cut into julienne

2 to 3 tsp spice mix

2 tsp sugar

salt

few sprigs of fresh cilantro

2 tbsp vegetable oil + a few teaspoons more

  1. First make the spice mix and keep aside.
  2. Quarter the eggplant lengthwise making sure that you don’t cut them all the way through. They should still be attached together from the top.
  3. Take a generous amount of the spice mix and rub it in between the eggplant. This spice mix will make the otherwise bland eggplant all flavorful from the inside. Keep the eggplant aside while you make the sauce.
  4. In a sauce pan heat up a few teaspoons of oil .
  5. Add onions and cook till they turn golden.
  6. Add 2 to 3 tsp of the spice mix and cook for another minute.
  7. Add tomatoes, mix well. Add salt and sugar, mix and cook covered on low for about five minutes or until the tomatoes are cooked through and are easy to break down to form a sauce like consistency.
  8. Mix in the ginger and cilantro and cook uncovered for a couple more minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture is too thick. You want it to be like a thick sauce. Turn the heat off and keep aside.
  9. In another large frying pan, heat up the 2 tbsp oil and fry the eggplant on medium low till they are golden from all the side and feel soft and cooked through upon inserting a fork. You can cover them in between to speed up the process, but be careful as you don’t want them to be mushy.
  10. Once the eggplant is cooked, add them to the sauce and toss around till the sauce covers them nicely. Check & adjust the seasoning at this time.
  11. Leave the eggplant in the sauce for about 30 minutes or till you are ready to eat. Just reheat the dish before serving.
  12. It goes very well with naan, or over couscous.