“Can you make that baingan curry we had at the wedding reception?” asked my father-in-law very hopefully of his new daughter-in-law – aka me! I could cook but baghara baingan – the dish he was asking for – was definitely a stretch!
Hailing from Madras, my husband’s family was used to the typical ‘thaali’ meal served at Tamil weddings and our Hyderabadi “daaawat ka khana” which is what they got at my wedding – was a total shocker! The fact that it was a shocker to them was a shocker to me – Hyderabad-born and bred!
After the initial surprise, however, they fell to with gusto – greeting each bowl of mirchi ka salan, baghara baingan, biryani, poori-masala aloo, khatti dal like they’d never seen it before – which was likely. No one in their family had ever married a Hyderabadi before! My father-in-law particularly fell in love with baghara baingan and some weeks later, asked me if I could make it. Now, i could cook but festive dishes like this one were a problem. I knew only how to eat them!
But could I say so??? And lay my Hyderabadi background open to ridicule?? Of course not. So I prevaricated – who knows better than the Hyderabadi how to put off till “tarsoon” (the day after day after tomorrow!) anything that begs to be done today??!!! The telephones in the colony we lived in did not work most of the time – so no quick SOS call possible to mom for recipe.
God had not yet taken birth in his Google avatar – in fact, most people hadn’t seen a computer! Cookbooks were few and far between. Couldn’t even find a Hyderabadi in Madras those days – phew!
Snail mail was the answer. Quickly posted off to my mom for recipe. Mom obliges very quickly – too quickly because the speed at which she responded added to the famous “doctor’s scrawl” meant much of it was illegible. Never mind, I reasoned, the “Madrasis” wouldn’t know if it differed from the original and proceeded to decipher as much as I could and make up what i couldn’t!
Unfortunately, to cater to family’s desire for spicy – very spicy – food, I added a LOT of chilies and forgot to put in any salt! A cousin who was visiting was the first to try this exotic dish from the new bride – hmmm…. all I’ll say is the cousin never visited us again!
After that, of course, many baghara baingans have happened with much happier results. Try this out.
Baingan (long purple brinjals/ eggplant) – 1/2 kg
2 small tomatoes – quartered – optional
1/2 tsp red chili powder
8-10 pods of garlic – grind to a paste
Tamarind paste – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Oil – 4 tbsp
Make a masala by roasting separately and grinding together the following:
Poppy seeds (khus khus) – 2 tbsp
Dhania (coriander) – 1 tbsp
Peanuts – 2 tbsp
Jeera (Cumin) – 1 tsp
Til (Sesame seeds) – 2 tbsp
Copra (dry coconut) – 3 tbsp
Onion paste – 2 large onions – slice, fry in a tbsp of oil till golden and grind to a paste.
Slit the brinjals length wise into 4 keeping the stalks intact. Fry them for 5-6 minutes till they discolour. Set aside. In the same oil, add mustard seeds and wait till they pop. Add the curry leaves, Add the onion paste and garlic paste and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the chili powder and the masala powder and stiry for a couple of minutes more. Add the tamarind paste and 1 cup water and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the fried brinjals and the salt and cover and cook for about 7-8 minutes till brinjals are tender. Drop the quartered tomatoes on top and cover. Switch off and let the tomato pieces stew in their own juices!! 😉
Top with chopped coriander and serve with white pulao rice. Watch ’em drool!