In Praise of the Humble Eggplant-The New Indian Express

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By Monish Gujral
Deep purple. Now, I am still talking food and not writing a column on the rock band. Deep purple just happens to be the colour of my favourite vegetable—aubergine alias the eggplant. As a child I would laugh when someone would refer to it as the eggplant and wonder if eggs grew on trees. Those were the golden days.

Coming back to aubergines, like most north Indians, I love my Baingan ka Bhartha, with crisp tandoori roti. It should be nearly burnt, oozing with homemade white butter and mango pickle masala. My mouth is already watering, just writing about it. My mom had a special recipe for the bharta, it was sauteed with fresh ripe tomatoes and onions, with a hint of garlic, cloves and cardamom, garnished with fresh green chopped coriander. Not to forget a glass of fresh butter milk with cumin powder and seasoning .

The egg plant is native to the Indian subcontinent although it is very popular all over the globe . It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistoric times. Aubergine has many Arabic names which indicate that this vegetable was introduced throughout the Mediterranean region by the Arabs in the early middle ages.

When raw, the vegetable has a bitter taste. However, on cooking, it becomes very tender with a complex flavour. It is advisable to salt the vegetable before cooking to avoid bitterness and it also prevents the eggplant from absorbing the extra fat while it is being cooked.

Eggplants features in the cuisine of many countries. It is often stewed to make fresh Ratatouille or can be deep fried to make Italian Parmigiana di Melanzane, the Turkish Kamiyak or Greek Mousakka.

In the Middle East, the vegetable is used to make many dishes like the Muttabbal. Eggplants can also be battered before deep-frying and served with a tahini sauce. One of my favourites is deep-fried eggplant sprinkled with salt and pepper and served with hung curd flavoured with garlic .

It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients, such as lemon, tahini and garlic, as in the Middle Eastern Baba Ghanough and in Greece, where its grilled, mashed and mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes and spices.

In Romania, Zacusca is made with eggplant roasted and mixed with red peppers, chopped onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots and celery.

Baiganpora (eggplant charred or burnt), is very popular in the east Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, where the pulp of the vegetable is mixed with raw chopped onions, green chillies, salt and mustard oil. A Spanish dish called Escalivada is made with strips of roasted aubergine, sweet pepper, onion and tomato. A Syrian speciality is Makdous made with pickled eggplant stuffed with red peppers and walnuts in olive oil.

We have travelled the world with eggplants and now it’s time to cook some. Here we go with my favourite recipe.

[button color="green" link="" target=""] Click for DEEP PURPLE-FRIED EGGPLANT
Recipe [/button]

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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