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Chai Time: Baingan Bharta - Smoked Eggplant Hash

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This fruit-based dish (eggplant is a berry - what?!?) is both beloved & reviled around the world. If you're not the biggest eggplant fan, this is the recipe to make you a believer. Tangy, garlic, creamy, and redolent with garam masala, Chef Meherwan Irani's take on the classic Punjabi Baingan Bharta is a mindblaster.

Baingan Bharta- Smoked Eggplant Hash

Ingredients

4 eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
8 Spicewalla Whole Cloves, divided
1 tsp Spicewalla Sicilian Sea Salt
1 tsp Spicewalla x Diaspora Turmeric, divided
1 tsp Spicewalla Kashmiri Chilli Powder, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 Tbs Spicewalla Cumin Seed
1 Tbs Spicewalla Ginger Powder
1 Tbs green chiles, roughly chopped
3 cups red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs cilantro stems, chopped, optional
2 tsp Spicewalla Dhana Jeera
3 cups crushed tomatoes, in a can
1 tsp Spicewalla Garam Masala
¼ cup Heavy cream

Optional ingredients for “smoking” eggplant
1 Spicewalla Cinnamon Stick
A few pods of Spicewalla Black Cardamom
A few pods of Spicewalla Green Cardamom
A few Spicewalla Whole Black Peppercorns
1 charcoal briquette
1 Tbsp ghee

PREPARATION

1. Preheat the oven to 500*F.
2. Poke 3-4 holes on each side of your eggplant. Press a garlic clove into each hole. Press 2-3 whole cloves into eggplant as well, set aside.
3. In a bowl, mix together salt, ½ tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, and 1/4 cup oil. Brush mixture on each eggplant half.
4. Place eggplants on a sheet tray skin side down and bake for 20-30 minutes until the eggplants begin to look charred. Turn the temperature down to 450*F and bake for another 20-30 minutes.
5. Remove eggplant from the oven, remove and discard the whole cloves.
6. Scoop the flesh out of each eggplant half into a large bowl, discard the skins.
7. Option for smoking eggplant: In a small bowl, add cinnamon stick, black cardamom, green cardamom, and black peppercorns. Rest this small bowl on top of the eggplant flesh in the large bowl. On a gas stove, grill or with a lighter, burn a charcoal briquette until it is hot. Add the charcoal briquette to the small bowl with spices and drizzle ghee on top of the hot briquette, cover both bowls with lid to trap the smoke and set aside.
8. In a large pot, heat ¼ cup oil over high heat. Add cumin seeds. As soon as they start to brown, stir in ginger, and green chiles.
9. Add red onion and saute for 20-30 minutes. Optional: add 1 Tbsp cilantro stems
10. Once onions are almost caramelized, add dhana jeera, ½ tsp turmeric, and ½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder. Stir to incorporate.
11. Add crushed tomatoes, stir to incorporate.
12. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring frequently.
13. If you opted to smoke the eggplant, remove lid and carefully discard small bowl with spices and charcoal, making sure the briquette is no longer hot.
14. Add the eggplant and garam masala into the tomato mixture. Let cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes.
15. With an immersion blender or potato masher, begin to puree the mixture while still keeping some chunks of eggplant for texture.
16. Add two generous splashes of heavy cream and salt to taste.
17. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Chai Time

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