I have noticed that I have become a bit more inclined towards celebrating festivals after coming to London, maybe it is out of being homesick during festive times and also to ensure that I remember the traditions involved I guess. ‘Makar Sankrant’ is a Hindu festival celebrated by my community ”Maharashtrians” with great pomp and enthusiasm as it heralds the season of Harvest. Similar to this festival is Lohri which is celebrated by the Punjabis in the North of India, Pongal in the state of Tamil Nadu, Uttaryan in the state of Gujrat. One festival so many names and so varied ways of celebrating! It is not only in India that this festival is celebrated it’s also welcomed in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos amongst others!
My mother always used to make a smoked aubergine vegetable dish called Vangyache Bharit – written in Marathi as – वांग्याचे भरीत on Makar Sankrant so I decided to make it too for Sankrant this year which was on the 14th of Jan’14. We also exchange small ladoos made of sesame seeds and jaggery called ”Tilache Ladoo” and wish each other by saying तिळगुळ घ्या गोड गोड बोला -‘Tilgul ghya god bola. It means that we shall forget and forgive any past bitter exchange of words and start afresh with this sweet offering and only speak sweet words of love. Til stands for sesame and Gul stands for jaggery in Marathi, so TilGul means a sweet made using sesame and jaggery as the main ingredients
The recipe is modified in various regions of the state of Maharashtra and also the variety of vanga/eggplant/aubergine or brinjal as we know it in urban India, is different in various parts of the state and in various states of India, of course differing due to climate and soil. Aai ( meaning Mother in the Marathi language – my mother tongue) always looked for the light green vanga or eggplant with white stripes on its skin which she rightly said tastes way better than its darker purple-skinned cousin.
Aai’s recipe which I will share now is how we have always made this dish at home. There are several variations and styles depending on which part of Maharashtra you hail from and also various sub-cultures and availability of local ingredients and palates.I guess what makes this recipe so special is that it brings back happy memories of childhood, festivity, celebration and the unmistakable smoky and rich vanga (eggplant/aubergine) taste with the crunchy red onion and a slap of hot spicy green chilli mixed in between, all balanced so well with the various masalas that go into this bharit Ummm!
Image Credit WebDunia
Serves:2 -as a main with chapatya(Marathi for Indian Naan Bread also called chapatis in Hindi)
Preparation Time :15 minutes
- 1 large vanga/baingan/eggplant/aubergine
- 1 large red onion
- 2-3 green chillies
- 5-6 large cloves of garlic
- a few mustard seeds
- Garam Masala – 2 heaped tsps
- Salt to taste
- A pinch of hing/asafoetida
- Turmeric – 1.5 tsp
- Red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
- Oil – 3-4 large tbsps
- Coriander/Cilantro to garnish
- The beauty of this dish lies in the deep and rich smoky flavour of the eggplant, I would love to use charcoals and do this bit on an open rustic fire but well I make do with my hob. You could use the oven but it will take much longer but directly on the hob – though a bit messy , it’s quicker! Roast the eggplant completely turning it on the side and moving it up an down so you don’t miss any bits.
- Allow this to cool and then charred skin will come off easily.
- Mash with your hands in a smooth mass of soft cooked, smoked eggplant.
- While the eggplant is smoking on the hob, finely chop one large red onion.
- Skin the garlic and use a mortar pestle to smash the green chillies with the garlic
- In a dry saucepan, add the oil and after it is hot, add a pinch of hing/ asafoetida and mustard seeds, as the mustard seeds begin to pop add the cumin seeds and the garam masala powder and the finely chopped red onion and stir it often till it turns colour and is still crunchy to taste.
- Now add the turmeric and red chilli powder
- Then stir in the ”thecha”(Marathi for the green chilli and garlic mixture) and saute’ till the raw garlic becomes one with the mixture. Vary the green chillies depending on your personal tolerance of heat
- Reduce the flame to a low and add the eggplant mash into this mixture and stir well so as to ensure equal distribution of the onion and all other flavours.
- Cook with lid for under 5 minutes.
- Garnish with finely chopped coriander/cilantro.
- Serve with hot chapatya or steamed rice and dal.
- We also enjoy this cold, cool the dish completely and serve with a generous helping of set curd/yoghurt.
- My aai didn’t add tomatoes to this and at times used some Goda masala as well as it has dry grated coconut which can really alter the taste.
- For Baingan Bharta add one finely chopped tomato as well after the onion has been fried.