Bharta (Smoked Eggplant with fresh Herbs)

Karen Haigh
Originally From: Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni
Serves 6
This takes a lot of work, but is worth it! The eggplant is traditionally roasted over the ashes of a burnt down wood fire for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. This method is much easier.

2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each)
1/2 cup shelled peas (fresh or frozen), cooked
1/2 cup light vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh ripe tomatoes
2 green chilies, seeded and minced
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves

Wash eggplant under running cold water, and wipe dry with kitchen towels.

Roast the eggplant. To roast, stand one eggplant on a burner of a gas stove, stem side uppermost, over a low flame until the bottom of the eggplant is throughly charred (about 5 minutes). Now lay the eggplant on its side, and roast, turning it every minute with a pair of tongs until it is fully charred and very soft (about 15-20 minutes). When fully cooked, the eggplant will be quite limp, the skin blistered, and the juices beginning to ooze out. It can also be roasted on a baking sheet in the middle of a preheated 500oF oven for 20 minutes, but it will not develop quite the right smoky flavour.

Let the eggplants cool briefly. Then carefully scrape the charred skin off. Rinse quickly under running cold water to wash away any skin that may still cling to the eggplant. Place the eggplants in a small bowl. With paper towels, pat dry all the juices oozing out, pressing the eggplant slightly. The juices carry the bitterness often found in eggplant, therefore it is essential you dry them thoroughly. Then chop the pulp coarsely with a knife. Chop hard lumps fine. Put the pulp in a small bowl and beat with a fork for a minute. Set aside.

Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a shallow pan, preferably one with a non-stick surface. When the oil is hot, add garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring for a minute. Add onions and fry until they are light golden -- do not let them brown -- (about 8 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium, add eggplant and cook for an additional 8 minutes, stirring often.

Add tomatoes and chilies, and continue cooking until the eggplant and tomatoes are fried (about 10 minutes). Add peas and cook until a glaze forms on the puree (about 5 minutes). Turn off heat, stir in salt. Just before serving, fold in chopped coriander.

From the Dinner Co-op