The first time my mum gave you in my school lunchbox, I saw a live worm scrawling towards me just as I opened the box. I ran for my life in the corridor, promising not to touch or even look at you ever again.
It so happened that after my marriage, deciding the daily menu became the hair-pulling chore of my new life. My cook at the time in Mumbai suggested your name, and I shouted a no. She still persisted. I had to try you for her talent’s sake.
And you were wonderful. Your aroma was rustic and the smokey flavour was different than the usual dishes. Little did I know that I will fall for you at the first bite and you became a weekly thing then onwards.
It was on one Sunday morning, when I and my husband visited the farmer’s organic market here in Gurgaon. Just when we were stepping out of the place, I ended up at this stall that was selling clean potatoes and herbs. You were there, too. A woman picked you and asked the seller to check if there were no worms, and he passed it. I hadn’t tried any of you in the past few months, as the season wasn’t right. But it being spring, I picked you with pleasure and stuffed you inside my jute shopper bag.
I got you home, after which I roasted, peeled and cooked you with utter joy. Thank god for the spring!
And I was back with a mantra. I will never run away from you, my modest aubergine.
Recipe: Baigan ka Bharta/Roasted Aubergine
1 medium-sized aubergine
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, paste
1 green chilli, pound to paste
1 tsp of ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp red chilli powder
1½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
coriander leaves, chopped
1. After washing the aubergine or eggplant, poke holes on it with a help of a knife. Put it on the stove and keep turning it from side to side, every minute. You want to cook it from inside, and from all sides. You might also have to make it sit for it.
2. After about 15-20 minutes of roasting, remove it onto a plate. After about a minute, start peeling it. Cut the top side and start cutting it length-wise. Here’s when you want to spot any worm, and make sure there isn’t one. If I see one, I don’t touch my kitchen counter for hours.
3. Meanwhile, chop your veggies and make a green paste of green chilli, ginger and garlic.
4. Take a pan, heat some oil in it. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. After a few seconds, add the other spices and quickly stir and add the green paste. Stir.
5. Throw in the onion and keep stirring. Avoid getting the spices stick on the pan.
6. Add the tomato and salt. After a minute of cooking time, start mashing the entire thing.
7. Next is the roasted aubergine’s turn. Mash it all well, and let it cook for about two more minutes. Keep stirring, as the spices tend to stick on the pan. (I hardly use any of your fancy non-stick pans; don’t mind my repeated mentions.)
8. Add the garam masala, and garnish it with coriander leaves. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any garnish that day. But it hardly mattered.