Sunday, February 3, 2013

Begun Pora (Fire Roasted Eggplant Mash) - A Winter Comfort Food


I am back after a short inevitable hiatus. We, as a family had some tough time in the last month dealing with various health scares. The good news is that the worst is over and its time to thanks our friends  for their unyielding support.

Come winter and every Bengali household, worth its salt, would rustle Begun Pora at least once a week, if not more frequently. Begun is Brinjal/ Aubergine/ Eggplant and literally speaking Pora means  burnt or charred. Here the eggplant is roasted in open flame till the skin is charred and the flesh inside is cooked through and then its mashed up with mustard oil, red onion, cilantro and fiery green chilies. This rustic peasant dish is exclusive to the winters because, back in India, these plump, dark purple eggplants are available in only during the winter months. In US, we get these beauties, better known  as "Mexican Eggplant", all year round but call it mental block or psychological conditioning, I invariably make the Begun Pora during winters!

This photo is originally from http://www.mysahana.org/2010/09/eggplant/
Begun Pora can be called a Bong version of the Middle Eastern Baba Ganoush and a rustic cousin to the elite Punjabi-style Baingan ka Bharta that frequents the menus in Indian Restaurants here in the US.

The recipe I am sharing today is a combination of my Mother and Mother-in-law's recipe. My Mom adds chopped tomatoes to her mash while my MIL roasts the tomatoes, like I have done here. My Mom adds roasted garlic and a handful of sweet peas (available only in the winter months), which my MIL does not. Here is how I make it.



Wash the eggplant thoroughly, pat dry completely. Now slit lengthwise, making sure that the stem is on. Rub a little mustard oil and roast or smoke it on your stove top. Ideally, it should be done on an low open gas flame, but I had to do it on the stove-top rack on my cooking range. I double lined my drip-try with an aluminium foil for an easy clean up.


As the eggplant begins to char, turn it around a couple of times for an even charring. You'll know its done when the skin of the entire eggplant has tuned dark and its had sagged completely and the kitchen is filled with a sweet smokey smell (in about 20-30 mins, depending on the size of your eggplant).


The roasting/charring can also be done over the broiler mode in the oven, but you'll not get the smokey flavor which is so distinctive to this dish. In case you'd still insist on the broil method, put in a baking tray lined with aluminum foil, smear the eggplant with mustard oil on top and broil, rotating every 20 mins to broil it evenly. It usually takes between 40-50 minutes to an hour.




Now take two medium sized tomatoes, wash and pat dry and rub a little mustard oil and do exactly as you did with the eggplant- char it evenly. You can also stick in the broiler for 30 minutes. Do the same for a couple of cloves of garlic.



Once the eggplant, tomatoes and the garlic are charred, let them cool and then discard the skin and mash them. I use my clean hands to mash them but using a fork is just as fine.


Add a generous amount of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped red onions, green chilies and sweet peas (fresh or frozen; if using frozen thaw and rinse well before adding) and a teaspoon (or two) of pungent mustard oil.


Mix everything well and season with salt and a serve the Begun Pora with hot fluffy rotis.




Your light, healthy and delightful dinner is ready in about 30 minutes.

Recipe Snapshot: Begun Pora (Fire Roasted Eggplant Mash) 

Serves: 3 serving
(1 serving = 3/4 cup)

What I used:
Begun/ Brinjal/ Eggplant - 1 big, deep purple, washed and pat dry and slit, keeping the stem intact

Tomatoes - 2, washed and pat dry

Garlic - 4 fat cloves (5-6 small cloves), skin on

Red Onion - 1 medium sized, chopped

Green Chilies - 1-2 nos (or more if you can tolerate)

Cilantro/ Coriander leaves - 1 cup chopped

Sweet Peas - ½ cup (fresh is desirable, frozen will do too!)

Mustard Oil - 1 to 2 teaspoon+ more rubbing on the eggplant and tomatoes

Salt


What I did:
1. Rub the Eggplant, Tomatoes and the Garlic with mustard oil.

2. Roast the eggplant, tomatoes and garlic on low gas flame or over the stove top, turning frequently. Alternatively, you can broil it in the oven.

3. Once the charred veggies are cooled, discard the skin and mash the flesh.

4. Add chopped onion, green chilies, cilantro, peas, salt and mustard oil and mix well.

5. Serve with hot roti/ chapati.


Diabetic Platter:
Eggplant is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Vitamin K, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber.
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