Baingan Bharta (oil free + dairy free)

Right as I’m typing up this post, there’s a beetle trying to fly right through my closed bedroom window. Is it trying to commit suicide or something? It reminds me of the childhood days where I’d get distracted while practicing for my piano lessons by watching birds knock their heads against the window glass, fall off the wall and do it all over again. And before you tell me that it’s because the birds see something intriguing on the other side of the window, what could a bird possibly do next to a piano? I can presume that my classical piano music somehow serenaded to it like that one scene from Shrek, except I didn’t cause it to explode to death unlike Fiona’s wrong note. Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that movie.

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Moving on from that annoying-ass mosquito because it just flew away, there’s something I have to discuss with you all. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to eat at Indian restaurants for one main reason: dairy. The more I eat at Indian restaurants, the worse I feel. I eventually discovered that Indian cuisine glorifies the use of butter, ghee, yogurt and heavy cream, all being foods that contain lactose, which I’ve reiterated I’m intolerant to multiple times on the blog. Now, it’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid of going out to eat at an Indian restaurant because I know that no matter what, my food is going to contain some kind of dairy product in it.

Currently, I’ve decided to take a break from eating out for a bit. It’s so tempting for me to find really exciting restaurants on Yelp or Pinterest and order something right away. I’m totally guilty of that (hello, Indian buffets). But eating out too often is pretty unhealthy for you because you’re taking in these additives that chefs put into your food that aren’t necessarily the healthiest–MSG, vegetable oils, canola oils, refined sugars, salts, thick sauces, trans fats, flours, and chemicals that nobody has ever even heard of, let alone can pronounce. You might accidentally find something that you could be allergic to as well, whether that be gluten, soy, wheat, nuts, dairy, or whatever. Cooking more at home keeps me in control of what goes into my body and how much of each ingredient I’ll be consuming. Plus in the long run, it’s a lot more inexpensive.

Of course I’ll still be going out to have Indian food every now and then. My plan is to order tomato-based curries, bean-based curries and possibly coconut-based curries if there is any, plus I can always ask the server if there is dairy in something. I just gotta live life, ya know?

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So, because it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant, I’ve been experiencing withdrawal symptoms from eggplant bharta, or baingan bharta as it’s called in Northern Indian cuisine. Sure, I can roast eggplant slices or steam some in a soup, but they don’t yield the same aromatic, smoky flavor of baingan bharta that never fails to win my heart. The recipes I found online actually seemed so terrifying: how could you possibly cook an eggplant on an open flame where you could burn the whole house down? When I got one eggplant from Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, however, I accepted the challenge and my sister and I decided to roast that sucker right on our stovetop. One important note: the holes on the eggplant are going to leak and tons of juices will drip out! It’s a hassle to clean your stovetop afterwards, but the bharta is totally worth it. The flavor is so distinctive that you wouldn’t ever want to cook eggplant any other way again.

Did I mention that there’s no dairy or oil in this recipe? Yep, you’re welcome.

RECIPE (serves two)

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Opt: seasonings, cloves, garlic powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, garam masala, green peas, tomatoes, etc.

PROCEDURE

  1. Rinse your eggplant, dry it completely with a towel and poke as many holes on its surface as possible.
  2. Place your eggplant on one flame of your stovetop and turn the heat on the highest possible temperature.***
  3. Continue to roast your eggplant on open-flame, consistently turning the eggplant on different sides until the skin is completely charred and the eggplant is leaking and softening.
  4. Remove the eggplant from the stovetop carefully as it will be very hot!
  5. Cover the eggplant with saran wrap or aluminum foil and let cool.
  6. When the eggplant is cooled, cut off its stem and pick off the skin completely.
  7. Cut the eggplant into small pieces.
  8. Place the eggplant pieces in a mixing bowl and add the spices and optional ingredients.
  9. With a fork, potato masher or even a whisk, smush the eggplant until it is very thick and mushy. Add more spices as you mash it if necessary.
  10. Store in the fridge for up to 2-3 days or reheat in the microwave and serve immediately.

***If for any reason you cannot roast your eggplant on open flame, you can also broil your eggplant for 45-60 minutes, turning the eggplant on the other side halfway.

Favorite Shrek scene? Go-to order at an Indian restaurant?


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