Eggplants originated in Southeast Asia about 4000 years ago and paved the way for traditional, seasonal foods that were dedicated to this large, purple fruit.* This fusion is a more affordable dish (excludes tahini) and is vegan-friendly (excludes Greek yoghurt). It aims to keep it fresh, something Lebanese cuisine values, while still embracing the humble Punjabi ways during this cold and treacherous winter.
Punjab, the heart of the Sikh community, is home to a smoky eggplant dish called Baingan ka Bharta- meaning mashed eggplant. Originally cooked over an open fire with tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cilantro, coriander, red chili and turmeric. This main course is the perfect cold season dish to keep you warm alongside roti or rice and a yoghurt salad called raita. With the modern kitchen advances of today, the use of charcoal in making this dish has dwindled, and is replaced instead with gas and electric stovetop cooking.**
Baba Ghanouj, a Middle Eastern/Lebanese delicacy, is primarily made up of char-grilled and mashed eggplant and tahini. In Arabic, the words mean “pampered father”, in which a toothless father needed someone to mash his food for him to eat. When the dish spread to Western cultures, it became known as “eggplant caviar”, a ritzy and exotic new dip.* Traditionally, it’s a side dish eaten alongside pita, grilled veggies and is mixed with fresh garlic, parsley, olive oil, and lemon.***
Chopping and mixing: 20 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes
Smoking: 15-20 minutes
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
- 1/3 large red onion, diced
- 1 ripe avocado, cubed
- 1/2 large tomato or 1 roma tomato, diced
- 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (depends on if you want a more Punjabi or Lebanese flavor)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2c water
- salt and pepper to taste (at the end)
- Charcoal, 1 piece
- Olive oil
Chop all vegetables.
In a pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the eggplant and let boil for 5 minutes, covered with a lid. Then, turn the heat on low, and let eggplant cook for another 15 minutes with the lid covered. Drain excess water. It should look like this:
Then, with the stove on low heat, using a hand blender or masher, mash the eggplant until pureed.
At the same time, put the piece of charcoal on a small electric coil stovetop on high heat and let it turn red and ashy. I recommend keeping the stovetop fan on. Like so:
Now back to the pureed eggplant- add cumin and red chili flakes and stir. Turn off the stove and cover with lid.
Next, make two dome shaped foil pieces that sort of sit on top of each other. Doesn’t have to be perfect:
Put one of the foil pieces down in the middle of the pot of eggplant puree. Then, put the red, ashy charcoal piece on top of the foil in the pot. Prepare a teaspoon of olive oil to pour on top of the charcoal. This all happens in a very swift movement so that a ton of smoke is not escaped from the pot: in one hand, hold the spoon of olive oil and in the other the other piece of foil. Make sure the lid of the pot is within immediate grabbing distance. Quickly pour olive oil on coal, put second foil lid on top of the smoking coal and grab the pot lid and cover. Let it smoke for about 15-20 minutes- until it stops smoking in the pot.
Once it has stopped smoking, dispose of the charcoal and foil. I recommend dousing the coal in water first- just in case.
Move the eggplant to a serving dish and add the fresh tomato, avocado, onion and cilantro/parsley.
Where should I buy these ingredients?
Eggplants, avocados, onions, tomatoes and fresh herbs can be found at your local farmer’s market.
However, if you are buying from the grocery store, I recommend buying tomatoes and herbs organically. Eggplants, avocados and onions are on the Clean Fifteen list and are less likely to be heavily treated with pesticides.
Also, for my charcoal, I use the Kingsford brand. My family has always used that brand, so that is the flavor I am used to.
How many does it serve?
About 4, but you can easily double or triple the recipe
What does this pair well with?
With pita or parathas, hummus, raita, fresh olives, and grilled vegetables.
How long can it last?
About a week and a half in the fridge.