janet @ the taste space

Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta)

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on November 11, 2011 at 6:17 AM

There is always something fun going on in our kitchen….

As Rob likes to say, if something hasn’t been dropped while he’s cooked, then he hasn’t really cooked.

My nemesis in the kitchen is having my water boil over while I make steel-cut oats. I swear, it happens nearly every week. Mostly because after I get my oats simmering, I usually wander away to do other things… load/unload the dishwasher, get dressed, etc… and then I hear sputtering and I’m back in an instant to calm the oats.

I am pretty good about not burning things, though.

So, when I roasted some eggplants over the gas flame on the oven, Rob was alarmed when he smelled smoke from his upstairs office. Everything alright? he asked. He peered at my neat pile of 7 Asian eggplants, on fire on the stovetop.

I am roasting eggplants! They are supposed to turn catch on fire and turn black. Honestly! This fire is under control!

While in Turkey, I learned how to roast an eggplant to get that smokey flavour for the eggplant in Sultan’s delight. You need to do it over an open flame. Apparently the big fat eggplants here have a much tougher skin, so they suggested getting an Asian or European variety with a thinner skin. After you have charred the eggplant, carefully remove the skin while retaining all the juice. The smaller eggplants, though, turn this into a very tedious chore. But, yes, it was worth the efforts. You can’t duplicate that flavour without the fire.

I have been meaning to make the Indian roasted eggplant dish, Baingan Bharta, for the longest time. However, as it is vegetable-based side dish, I have found it harder to incorporate into my weekly meals. I don’t usually do the two-dish dinners. So when I spotted this Eggplant and Lentil Curry at The Kathmanduo, I knew I had a great combination.

Essentially, you are combining dal bhat (or just dal since there is no rice) with baingan bharta. The dal, alone, was superb. The fenugreek adds a more savoury note that is tempered by the typical Indian culprits of cumin, ginger and coriander. You could stop right there, throw in some rice and have an excellent meal.

Please keep going, though.

With the roasted eggplant, you create a smokey, sultry savoury mush. It wasn’t what I was expecting from a bharta, as I wanted something with more tomato presence. The smokiness from the eggplant was unbeatable, though. Now throw it into your dal. Mix the two together. Bliss, sheer bliss. And a complete meal: veggies and beans. Add your favourite grain if you are still so inclined.

Sadly, as much as I adored this dish, this will be the last time I will be able to roast anything on an open flame in the kitchen.

Not because it was a fire hazard, or that I had a lot of cleaning to do afterwards…

But rather, we discovered that the smoke really irritates Rob’s allergies. The house smelled like smoke for 2 days and for weeks, Rob had unresolved sniffles. It took us a while to pinpoint the culprit but I’ve conceded the eggplant roasting for now. Even though Rob agreed this was the best eggplant dish he had ever had. Not willing to risk anyone’s health, it will have to stay locked in our memories forever. 🙂

This is being submitted to Lisa’s Celebration of Indian Food, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona.

Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta)

1 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1-2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used the juice from 1/2 lemon)

Roasted eggplant
2 medium eggplants (I used 900g of smaller Asian eggplants)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 medium onions, sliced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced (2.5-3 cups)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, fenugreek, salt, turmeric, cumin, and coriander and fry for around 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden-brown and the spices are fragrant.  Add the red lentils to the pot with 3.5 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer, partially cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are almost mushy.  When fully cooked, remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner and as the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. This can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on how smoky you want your eggplant. If you don’t have a gas stovetop, prick the eggplant and place the eggplant under the broiler until it begins to collapse and the skin blisters slightly, around 30-60 minutes. Once the eggplants are roasted, allow to before removing the skin with a sharp knife and chop the eggplant flesh into 1-inch chunks (this can be done a head of time).

3. Once your eggplant has been roasted, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they become fragrant and brown, approximately one minute. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook until onions become soft and golden, about 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes with their juices to deglaze the pan. Stir in the turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, salt, and Aleppo pepper. Stir occasionally and cook for five more minutes, to heat through. Add the roasted eggplant and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing burns.

4. Add the cooled lentils to the eggplant mixture and gently fold in. Stir well and cook for 10 more minutes.  Serve hot with rice, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

  1. Yes, this curry was SUPER TASTY, but my poor nose will never forgive me!

  2. Yum yum, my all time favourite baingan bharta..

  3. Baingan Bharta has a special place in my heart, mostly because it sounds like you’re doing something unsavory to someone named Bertha. There are a lot of words in Marathi that sound like unsavory American terms. The Marathi words “only” and “ladder” both sound like cuss words in English, so sometimes I would walk around the house saying those words to annoy my parents and confuse my grandparents.

  4. I think these would be equally delicious just side-by-side on a plate, but together. . . oh, my! I truly can’t wait to get roasting those eggplants! Thanks for submitting to WW this week (and I’m still giggling at Anita’s comment up there). 🙂

  5. Yum, this looks amazing, and I am so envious of your gas stove! I have to char my eggplants under the broiler, and it just isn’t the same. Allergies are a tragedy. I live in a town house with a common hallway, and smoke would bring alarmed neighbors to my door in no time. To obtain a real authentic char, better to roast the eggplants over a little hibachi outside, perhaps, which would solve both our problems!

  6. yum! I am obsessed with roasted egg plant. It tastes like cheese!

  7. This looks awesome. I roasted eggplants in the oven for my latest post. Ottolenghi gave instructions for oven roasting as an alternative to open flame. (The baby was sleeping and I didn’t want to risk setting off the smoke alarm with an open flame!) They smoked some in the oven but it was pretty much contained. I don’t know if you would want to chance it by trying again, but you might give the oven method a go. He explains it on pg. 116. It is essential to pierce the eggplants with a fork before broiling. I was very happy with the results. We have roasted eggplant on our outdoor grill before and this was the closest I’ve come to replicating that smoky flavor indoors.

  8. Yumm this sounds amazing. I wish I had that sort of stovetop so I could roast things like that, preferably without the fire though haha. Too bad it caused Rob problems though.

  9. Thanks Janet for your submission. I could eat this up right now. I would deal with the smoke 🙂

  10. Or you guys can get a grill and roast outside! I think it would be so sad to never eat this again. It’s been on my to-make list for FOREVER. Maybe…I’ll make it and you’ll come visit and eat it? that would solve the whole smoke problem.

  11. I’ve got a silly induction hob so I can’t get that smokey taste for baba ghanoush that I am desperate to replicate. But it is easier to clean!! I have to do them under the grill instead. This is on my list for this week because it mixes two of my favourite dishes, I can’t wait, it looks so good!!

    • Natalie, I used to have a flat glass-top stovetop and would feel exacerbated that I couldn’t use my tagine or takoyaki pan… and of course, no love for the flame-roasted veggies… So far, so good with this gas stovetop – loving it!

  12. First read of the blog and first dish to try…..’simply divine’ was my husbands assertion!! I thought so too…and was all smug with myself over the weekend…! great recipe. thanks!!

  13. this is a fun combination with the lentils. i hear you about the cleaning of the stove top. i usually put a little water down below to help reduce the work. and i also just do a quick burn of most of the skin and microwave the big fat eggplant, instead of waiting for the whole smoky shebang..
    hope you find a way to try it again! anita’s comment is super hilarious:)

  14. Janet, I am glad that you and all of your readers seem to so enjoy my recipe creation, which I featured in my blog back in March. I continue to experiment with recipes here in Kathmandu, so if you liked this one, please check my blog for more: http://thekathmanduo.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes

  15. I certainly would like to taste this dish: I love eggplant and lentils and here they are paired in a nice combination. Thank you so much for contributing to MLLA.

  16. I just found this dish on the My Legume Love Affair roundup and now I can’t wait for aubergine season to be here! It will be a long wait, but as a huge fan of both dals and roasted aubergines, I’ll probably eat this until I explode as soon as the season arrives.

    I’m sorry to hear you won’t be able to do this as often since it is bad for allergies. Smoked aubergines have a very penetrating smell. I hope you’ll get plenty of sunshine to roast them outside, anyway!

  17. […] Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta) […]

  18. […] of the big differences I noticed in Julia’s recipe and the bharta component of the Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry was that Julia roasted her tomatoes. Ingenious! Roasted eggplant AND tomatoes.  Now that […]

  19. I’m super excited to try this dish!!! Thank you so much for posting!! Sounds yum-a-lish!!

  20. […] Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta) Sea Weeds and Greens Salad (aka Kelp Noodles with Wakame and Radish Sprouts) Braised Cabbage with Chorizo Seitan Sausage Mango, Black Bean and Quinoa Salad […]

  21. My favourite way to roast eggplant! Right on the flame, like I learned in India. I thought my friends were joking at first. I love Baingan Bhartha! The dal addition is great… I’ve done that a few times, too.

  22. Janet, I made this dish yesterday and it was absolutely delicious! My only regret is that I didn’t have any fenugreek, I know it would have made a difference in taste, but I was just too anxious to try this so I left it out. I often cook red lentils and it was such a lovely change to combine them with eggplant. The recipe makes a lot, I’m so happy about that cos I’m going to have the last bit for lunch today. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

  23. […] with Toor Dal) Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas) Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta) Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew) Cauliflower, Spinach and […]

  24. Many thanks for this recipe. It came out so nice, that I found a good way of cooking eggplants without deep frying.

  25. […] I turn to instinctively. It is probably because I almost killed Rob with his asthma when I smoked them in our house. I still think that is the best way to make smoky soft eggplant and with our new BBQ, Rob has […]

  26. […] Indian food I liked was butter chicken. Then I met Rob and we explored lots of great, naturally vegan curries. While we have veganized some of Rob’s favourite curries (see this Vegan Khao Soi), I […]

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