Today I keep two promises. One that I made to myself at the start of this new year, that I will not ignore my blog any more and will try to post something at least once or twice a month. The other I had promised my friends that I would narrate my story one day.
A tale that begins in my home back in India, where the kitchen was my mom’s territory that I occasionally visited when my stomach growled. The kitchen counter being my favorite place to sit while amma cooked tirelessly for her ever hungry family(read kids). I helped her in quality control – tasting for salt and spice. Actually, I was not even good at that. I knew something was missing, but could never figure out what. I never even bothered to look at the ingredients that went into her pots and pans.
By the time I finished college, the only commendable jobs I could perform in the kitchen were making dosais (this does not include making the batter) and perfectly round chappatis/phulkas that would puff up almost every time (and this does not include preparing the dough). I could not make tea or even cook rice to save my life. I learnt basic survival subjis, curries and dals just before I left home and moved all the way across the globe.
When I landed in the US and met my roommates, I figured I was definitely in between both N and S who couldn’t light a match and J who could cook sambhar and rasam without looking at cookbooks and recreate dishes from any printed recipe without hesitation. N and S gave me a superiority complex for the first time in my life. Our cooking turns inspired me to look for recipes everywhere and come up with something new every week. The phone of course, was my lifeline. I don’t remember the number of calls I must have made to ask Amma ‘what dal goes into kootu’ or ‘moong dal? Is that the little yellow one or the little red one?. Amma was getting used to receiving SOS calls at 3 or 4 in the morning IST. One such call was for the recipe for baingan bharta.
It was such a big hit, and the one that elevated me to the category of being a good cook who could make exotic dishes*, and that accolade was not given to J yet! She was a wonderful cook, but made only south Indian food. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine and all pumped up for my next cooking turn which almost cost me my newly acquired title. That story comes up next time, but for now, I present to you my recipe of success.
*Any two word North indian dish is exotic for a South Indian. Any dish that both tastes and sounds close to a restaurant menu is exotic for a bunch of poor students. Anything edible is exotic if you are a bad cook/do not cook. Take your pick!
Baingan (Eggplant) – 1 large
White Onions – 2 medium (chopped lengthwise)
Tomatoes – 4 medium (chopped)
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves (optional)
Green chillies – 3 or according to spice level
Ginger – 1 cm x 1 cm piece grated
Red chilli pwd – 1 tsp
Jeera pwd – 1 tbsp
Cumin (Jeera) – 2 tsp
Garam masala (optional) – 1 tsp
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Cilantro to garnish
Rub some oil on the Baingan and roast it directly on the fire until the skin chars and the flesh is completely cooked. This works best when you have a gas stove. It also works if you have the electric coil. For those with smooth tops, like me, open the oven and broil it on high. Keep checking and turning when required. Once cooked, place it in a cold water bath and peel the skins off. It should come off easily. Now, just run your knife over the baingan randomly and cut it into small bits.
Heat up the oil and add the jeera. Add the ginger and chillies. Then add the onions and garlic. Once the onions are transluscent, add tomatoes. After the tomatoes are cooked, add the jeera, chilli, turmeric and garam masala pwds. Add the chopped baingan and required salt. Let it cook together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with hot phulkas! YUM!