Punjabi Bharta

I love Indian food. I honestly could eat it every single day. I particularly love Punjabi food. Punjab is the northern region of India and happens to be where my husband grew up. He normally does the Indian cooking in our house, but lately I have been feeling super inspired. The last time we visited India I would spend hours in the kitchen with my Auntie watching her work her magic. It was an experience I can't quite put into words. She had a sixth sense when it came to seasoning dishes without even needing to taste them and could roll out a roti with her bare hands in a matter of seconds. 

Bharta is one of my husband's all-time favorite dishes. Bharta means eggplant in Punjabi. This dish is nurturing, smoky and delicious. Indian food is designed to have an ease on the digestive track. I stuck to tradition with this recipe as I feel like it is perfect the way it is. Traditionally served over white Basmati rice, topped with ghee and with a side or yogurt or next to a roti or naan. 

Ingredients:

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  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/3 c frozen peas
  • 3 T ghee
  • 1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, cumin seed, curry powder and smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp each turmeric, fennel seed and ajwain (caraway seed)
  • 1/4 tsp  each ground cardamom and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

First step is to "smoke" or roast the eggplant. I do this by using two medium to large cast iron pans. Over medium high heat, place the eggplants into a dry cast iron skillet and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the eggplants slightly so that the surface right next to the one you just cooked can be cooked. Continue to rotate every 5 minutes or so until the whole outside of the eggplant is charcoaled. Place the second pan, fave down over the top of the pan and turn the stove off. Let sit for an hour and sweat. Remove the eggplants from the plan, the skin should easily slip off. Remove all the skip and place the eggplant into a high speed blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until you have an eggplant puree. 

In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, melt the ghee on medium heat. Add all the spices and stir until fragrant. Toasting your spices in ghee before adding any other ingredients, releases the flavor as well as activates the turmeric. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on medium-low heat until the onions are very soft (10-15 minutes). You want them to be transparent and starting to caramelize. Add the tomato paste and water (start with 1/4 cup, if it seems too thick, continue to add water 1 T at a time. You want it to be a thick gravy-like consistently). Add salt, eggplant and peas. Stir until combined and taste to adjust salt. Serve over steamed rice and top with yogurt