‘Badnekai’ is the Kannada word for eggplant/aubergine. ‘Mosuru’ means yoghurt in Kannada. ‘Bajji’ means different things (including a deep-friend vegetable fritter) but in this context it means mashed vegetable. This recipe describes a dish that I wasn’t a huge fan of as a child because of its smoky flavour. However, as an adult, I love it and its variations. You will recognise the smoky flavour if you are a huge fan or have tried baba ghanouj (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_ghanoush).This dish is one that my grandma and mum both make and can be eaten with pita bread (or any other thin bread). But being brought up in south India, I’ve always had it with hot rice and some ghee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghee). Perhaps omit the ghee if you care for your arteries.
Ingredients (serves 2-4 depending on the size of the eggplant):
1 juicy eggplant/aubergine
1 medium onion, diced
1 sprig of curry leaves
3cm piece of ginger, grated
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup thick unsweetened yoghurt
salt to suit your taste
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon urid dal
1/4 teaspoon chana dal
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1. The first step is to char the eggplant. To do this, wash the eggplant and dry it. Rub half a teaspoon of oil over its skin. Place it directly on the flame of a gas hob. Turn it regularly for 10-15 minutes so that it chars evenly. You know the eggplant is done when the vegetable has almost collapsed on itself and is all soft and floppy and hard to lift off the stove. I have shown you an example in the picture above and more in those that follow the recipe.
2. The skin of a charred eggplant feels like burnt paper and the whole house is also going to smell like burnt paper. Make sure you don’t set your smoke alarms off by keeping the exhaust fan on and windows open if possible. Let the eggplant cool down before peeling it as the skin shrinks upon cooling making the process easier.
3. Peel the skin of the eggplant making sure you get all the black bits off (burnt stuff = bad for you). Just to be absolutely sure, run the eggplant under cold water to remove all remaining specks of black.
4. Chop the charred eggplant into small bits comparable to the size of your diced onion. The eggplant I have shown was a really skinny one (wrong season) but use a fatter one as you will have more flesh to work with.
5. Heat the oil and add the tempering ingredients in the order that I have listed them. If you don’t have any or all of these ingredients, don’t fret as the eggplant dish will still turn out tasty. Think of these as embellishments.
6. As the mustard starts to crackle, add the chillies, curry leaves and ginger and saute for a minute until the smell of raw ginger no longer lingers.
7. Add the onions and sauté until they are a golden brown. Half-cooked onions can ruin this dish.
8. Add the diced eggplant to the onions and mix until well combined. As the eggplant is already cooked, you don’t have to stir it for long.
9. Turn off the heat and mix in the salt and yoghurt.
10. Serve hot rice or thin bread.
If you don’t have a gas hob, you can cook the eggplant in the oven. Oil the skin of the eggplant and put it in a 200°C oven on the top shelf for 30-40 minutes or until you can push a fork right through the flesh and the eggplant juices are oozing into your baking tray.
An oven-cooked eggplant does not have the smokiness of a gas-charred one but is still delicious.
If you are vegan, the you can omit the yoghurt and add chopped tomatoes and a bit of garam masala to replace it. Alternatively, you can use unsweetened soy yoghurt but I would cool the eggplant before adding the soy yoghurt in case it curdled because of the heat.
1. Peeling a steaming hot charred eggplant.
2. Fully peeled eggplant about to be washed
3. Chopped ingredients for the dish
4. Tempering ingredients and spices
5. Sautéed onions with added eggplant
6. The final dish with yoghurt mixed in