Monday, 10 September 2012

Baingan Bartha - Spiced Smoky Eggplant

North-Indian vegetarian curries, for me, are always a reminiscent of the first year of my married life and the Savali Vegetarian Restaurant at Nigdi in Pune. This restaurant was our favourite hang out during weekends and when I was too tired to cook during weekdays. GC's favourite was Dal-Chawal (Rice with Yellow Lentil Curry) with Bhindi Masala (Okra in a spicy red semi-dry gravy), plain yoghurt and papad. As for me, I was in love with all the North-Indian dishes there, that I could never make choice.

'Bartha' was a dish that proved to me to never judge a curry by its looks. One of GC's friend always raved about bartha, that I was quite disappointed to see it served on the table. Thoughts that went through my mind: It just looks like mashed eggplant and tomato curry; as if the eggplant was overdone and they ended up making it into a new dish and giving it a fancy name. What is so great about it? He (GC's friend) must have never eaten eggplants before in his life and this looks exotic to him! Never, ever, ask him for opinions about food - I bet it is going to be a bad one.

At least some of you, who are new to the dish, must be having similar thoughts. All I can say is that you have to eat it to know it. A few simple spices with hints of coriander leaves and a subtle smokey flavour makes it a truly amazing, surprising dish.

Prerequisites to like this dish: You must like eggplants. You should enjoy simple flavours. You should not be put off by the mushy looking eggplants.

Serves: 6
Preparation Time: 25 minutes + cooling time
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Baking/ Grilling Time: 45 minutes

  • 800g large eggplant, approx.
  • 650g small tomatoes, approx.
  • 1 1/2 cup brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 green chilly, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3/4 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cooking oil + extra to rub on eggplant
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilly powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped (add more according to taste)
1. Preheat fan-forced oven to 200° C. Cut eggplant lengthwise into two halves. Rub eggplant and tomato with oil. Reduce oven temperature to 170°C and bake for 20 minutes. Change oven setting from bake to grill. Grill eggplant and tomato until skin is charred. Take care not to over-burn the vegetables. Tomato skins will be charred long before the eggplant. Allow vegetables to cool down at room temperature. Remove charred skin from tomato and eggplant. (If you are in a hurry, plunge vegetables into ice-cold water. This will help you remove charred skin easily).
2. Roughly chop tomatoes and eggplant. Do not discard any juices that flow out. They are important to impart the smokey flavour to this dish.
3. Heat oil and splutter mustard seeds followed by cumin seeds. Add onion, ginger, garlic, chilly and salt and toss till onion softens. Add coriander powder, chilly powder, turmeric powder and pepper powder. Stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Add eggplant and tomatoes together with any liquid, mix well and cook for a few minutes until all spices seep through the vegetables. Remove from fire and sprinkle coriander leaves.

Serve hot with roti or rice.


  1. I never get this color. How to do it? I dont do tomatoes inthe oven.

    1. A friend of mine from Mumbai gave me the suggestion of doing the tomatoes as well to intensify the smoky flavour. The colour I think has to do with the brand of kashmiri chilly powder used.