A popular Hyderabadi dish, Baghara Baingan is a dish of eggplant (aubergine) cooked into a creamy nutty coconut gravy with the added tang tang of tamarind. If you think you don't like any of these ingredients on their own, I urge you to try them married together here, in this traditional recipe often served during special occasions and on holidays.
While it seems complicated initially, this is a pretty straightforward and easy vegetarian hyderabadi recipe. Recipes and cooking recommendations vary, with some insisting on frying the aubergine in oil first and others demanding the use of chilis (speaking of which, add chili if you want it; I simply don't because I live in in a place where a chili on the other side of the room will set someone's mouth alight). Also, technically, you should seek out the smaller rounded variety of Indian eggplant but any small aubergines will do.
If you don't have a liquidiser (blender) to make the sauce, a food processor, nut grinder, or even pestle and mortar will also work. I used my vitamix for the sauce, but it's certainly not a necessity to use something quite that powerful. You just want something, at the very least, to crush the dry-fried spices.
- Begin by dry-frying all of the seeds, the peanuts, and the coconut for a minute in a wok or heavy bottomed pan, until a fragrant roasted smell is present and the seeds are popping. Tip them into a blender and place the wok back on the heat.
- Add a bit of oil to the pan, stir frying the onion on high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until browing fairly heavily. Remove and place the onion in the liquidiser with the roasted spices. Add the garlic and ginger, uncooked, as well as the turmeric and salt to the blender. Blend into a smooth paste.
- Slice the eggplants from the base to an inch or so below the stem (you want to keep each aubergine in one piece). Slice once more to divide the cut into four dangling eggplanty bits, so essentially two criss-crossed cuts. Rub some of the blended paste into the aubergine, stuffing some inside. This doesn't need to be super tidy.
- Heat some more oil in a large pan and fry the eggplants for five or 10 minutes, or until they begin to soften a bit.
- Add the tamarind paste, sugar, and the cup of water to the liquidiser with the remaining paste, and blend until mixed through. Tip the contents into the pan with the aubergines, cover, and cook on medium to medium-low for 15-20 minutes. Add more water if necessary, to keep the gravy from going too dry. Serve warm over rice or with roti.