Cashew Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato and Spices (Bharela Baingan)

I have made this twice now, and I think it is my most favorite way to eat eggplant. And I love eggplants. This recipe is from 660 Curries, so the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you have your curry blend, in this case Punjabi garam masala. You’ll need 1/2 tsp of it for this recipe, so feel free to cut the masala recipe in half if you don’t think you’ll be using it frequently (but if you have this book, you will probably find ways to use it, no problem!)

For the garam masala, you’ll need 1 tbs coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp whole cloves, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds from pods (Iyer specifies black pods, which I don’t have right now, so I used what I have), 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 fresh or dried bay leaves.

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Toast these over medium high heat, shaking the skillet frequently for one or two minutes. the coriander and cumin will turn reddish brown and the cinnamon and bay leaves will become brittle. Everything will be wonderfully fragrant. Cool the mixture on a plate.

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Next, grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Break the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves before putting them in the grinder. Grind until the mixture is like pepper.

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Now you’re ready to make your stuffing for the eggplant. Mix together in a bowl 1/2 cup of raw ground cashew nuts, 2 tbs of fresh cilantro, 1 tbs fresh lime juice (or mango powder, which I don’t have), 2 tsp ground cumin seeds, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne (I cut that in half), 1/2 tsp Punjabi garam masala. Stir it all up.

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I used a large eggplant, so I sliced it into rounds. If you have a bunch of baby eggplants, you can stuff the whole eggplant. With the rounds, cut an X onto the surface and then use a spoon and your fingers to cram some of the stuffing in there. Some will be on top.

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Heat 4 tbs canola oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or wok that has a lid and lay each slice in there to sear for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle remaining stuffing over the eggplant slices. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Roast them for about 30 minutes, using tongs to turn them over occasionally. When they are fork tender, remove the slices to a plate. Pour 1 cup of crushed tomatoes into the skillet with 1 tsp granulated sugar. Scrape the bottom of the pan to lift up the drippings and incorporate into the sauce. Turn up the heat, bring the sauce to a boil, stir occasionally, until the sauce thickens (it only takes a few minutes). Stir in 1 tbs fresh cilantro and prepare to serve.

As usual, I served it over basmati rice. I cooked the rice while the eggplants were roasting so everything was ready all at once. I scooped some rice into bowls, placed a slice of eggplant on top, and spooned sauce over the eggplant and garnished with some more cilantro. I love cilantro.

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I really wish I had a way to convey just how amazing this dish tastes. It kind of blew our minds the first time we had it. I’m definitely making this a fairly regular feature in our kitchen.

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