One of the strongest images of my mother, is of her in kitchen. Chopping, stirring and creating some fabulous meals. Raising three fussy kids and fulfilling their unique demands was no mean feat. Yet she did it with a panache and a smile. It was clearly written that she took pride and joy in her kitchen.
Yet whenever the kids and the husband would have their own plans of eating elsewhere, all her passion for cooking would change gears and would just not bother. The ever standard reply to our query of 'what she would eat' would be met with the 'Oh, something of the lunch/dinner is still there, I would manage". Aah!! Moms and their 'Mother India' ways....But then as I grew and saw around, I saw this as a common trait in Indian mothers. My friend's moms, my mom-in-laws, they all are in the same mould!!
Now a fraction of that goodness might have seeped inside me too, when I feel guilty in making anything special 'just for me'. So whenever I'm alone, which is increasingly frequent, lunch negates to a maggi or tehri. I would call this more of laziness than anything else, knowing the sacrificing overtones of my mom has not left such a strong imprint on me. And this is proved, when on some other occasion, I just take a 360' degree turn and treat myself to something special.
I guess such quirks and un-predicabilities are the essence of being a woman. And this is what I tried capturing in my scribble "She's like me". Yes I added a new page for my writings in the blog and you can read that here.
Coming back to the special dinner. Well it's a delicacy from Hyderabad, India called 'Baghara Baingan", where baby brinjals are cooked in a rich and thick gravy of coconut, peanuts, cashews & sesame and tempered with spices. That's why the name "baghara baingan"; 'baghar' meaning tempering. It's a very robust gravy, full of flavours; from coconut to jaggery, from peanuts to tamarind and from sesame to five spices.
Hyderabadi Baghara Baingan Recipe
8-10 baby brinjals
2 tbsp oil
2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/3 cup peanuts
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp cashews / 2 tbsp poppy seeds (Optional)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp tamarind paste/ amchoor powder
1/2 tbsp jaggery/brown sugar
1-2 tbsp ghee/oil
2 tsp paanch phoren (See note)
Pinch of hing
2-3 dry red chillies
5-5 curry leaves
1/2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
To make the gravy:
- Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil & fry thinly sliced onions on medium-high heat, till it turns golden brown. Transfer to a tissue to absorb excess oil
- In same oil, roast/fry coriander seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (if using) and till lightly browned. Transfer to the grinder jar along with fried onions.
- Now roast coconut till light in color, about 2-3 mins and transfer to the grinder. Similary roast peanuts and cashews too.
- Mix with other ingredients of the gravy. Let them cool and then grind to a smooth paste, adding very little water
Preparing the brinjals:
- Wash and pat dry the baby brinjals. Make a cross at the bottom, but keeping the top intact. Can remove the stem, if desired.
- Heat oil in pan. And shallow fry the properly dried brinjals on medium high heat for about 8-10 mins, till skin is charred and is soft from inside. Check with a fork.
- Transfer to tissue, to remove excess oil. Set it aside.
- Heat oil and add hing and paanch phoran. Let it splutter, then add dry red chillies and curry leaves. Saute for a min.
- Then add the ginger-garlic paste till it dries up
- Now add the peanut, coconut paste and cover the lid for 1-2 mins, so that the flavours are absorbed well
- Open the lid and add 1/2 -1 cup water and salt and mix well. Bring the gravy to a boil. Then add the fried brinjals and cook on low heat for 5-6 mins, till all spices are well blended.
- Serve hot with roti, paratha or rice
- Don't get boggled by the long list of ingredients or steps. If you have the key ingredients like coconut, peanuts & sesame, its not that compliacted. Shallow fry the brinjals. Roast and grind few ingredients. Cook the paste for a while and add the brinjals. And you have a delicacy in hand.
- If preparing for a party or special dinner, you can make the paste a night before. And simply shallow fry the brinjals and add to the paste before serving
- Paanch phoren is a common Indian spice mix, which works great with brinjals. You can make it at home by taking an equal mix of cumin, mustard, onion seeds, fennel and fenugreek seeds. For this recipe I sometimes avoid using fennel & that works great too. So if you just have mustard and cumin, go ahead and use that only. But do add dry red chillies and curry leaves for the right flavours.