janet @ the taste space

Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on January 30, 2012 at 5:59 AM

I have started to cook more Indian dishes… and I really enjoy them. I have yet to share them with any of my Indian friends, though. While Rob may consider himself an Indian connoisseur, he doesn’t count. Indian food is typically spicy, and sometimes I wonder if I am eating bastardized dishes since mine are not super spicy. I mean, is it still authentic Indian food? 😉

I recently went to my friend’s baby shower where they had catered oodles of Indian food for the event. My poor friends tried the chaat appetizer and lost the majority of their taste buds instantly; it was that spicy. For the main meals, my friends taste-tested the dishes and let me know which I could tolerate. There was one slightly mild dish: a tomato-eggplant dish, they told me. Although it was drenched in oil, the dish was superb with roasted tomatoes and eggplant. I later asked what the “real” name of the dish was: bharta. I remembered Julia raving about her bharta and now I knew why. This is some great stuff!

When Julia described her experience as “so good it made me want to cry“, I knew I wanted some tears here, too.
(And not from chopping the onions, that doesn’t count)

One 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 flame-roasting my eggplants are out of the question, I did it the safer way: in the oven. Doubling it up with the tomatoes was simple.

I ended up using more eggplant and tomatoes than Julia’s recipe, and because I didn’t care to make a dal concurrently, I threw in chickpeas towards the end of the dish.

While I didn’t cry, this is definitely one of my favourite meals. Smokey, sultry tomatoes and eggplant comes together in savoury spices with a hint of heat. A smidgen of coconut provides some sweetness. The cilantro and lemon liven it up. It tastes lush and rich but is actually a healthy meal.  The chickpeas give it some bulk and sustenance. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I think I might try my hand at these bean-based dosa next time.

Not to toot my own horn, but this dish tasted better than the one at my friend’s party. And likely a whole lot healthier. 🙂

This is my submission to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Indian cuisine, to Lisa’s Celebration of Indian Food, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas)

2 medium eggplants (1.5-2 lbs), pierced with a fork
9 Roma tomatoes, halved (this made 2 cups of roasted tomatoes)
2 tbsp canola oil, divided (or less)
1-in piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp salt (use smoked salt for a smokey flavour)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, freshly ground
1/2 tsp garam masala
pinch Aleppo chili flakes
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Place whole eggplants and sliced tomatoes (cut side up) on the sheet and drizzle tomatoes with 1 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 1 hour and 10 mins at 400F. Watch closely during the last 15 minutes of roasting. Set aside to cool.

2. After it is roasted, cooled and peeled, dice and mash eggplant.  Set aside. Once cooled, chop the tomatoes (peel if you care to, but I didn’t!).

3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and ginger over medium high heat and cook 30 seconds.  Add onion and salt and cook about 10 minutes until softened and golden.

4. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.  Add coconut and cook for an additional minute.  Add coriander, cumin, garam masala, and chili flakes; cook 1 minute until fragrant.  Add a tablespoon of water to deglaze the pan and continue cooking for 1 more minute.

5. Add cooled tomatoes and eggplant and cook 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and stir until heated through, another 5 minutes.

6. Stir in half the cilantro and the lemon juice.  Add salt to taste.  Garnish with remaining cilantro.

Serves about 4-6.

  1. Roasted veggies make everything so much better! I can’t wait to try this. I make a lot of Indian food too… and am also nervous to share with Indian friends. I think it’s good though! 🙂

    This certainly looks worthy of tooting your horn!

  2. Love that the tomato and eggplant are roasted. I’ve been craving eggplant dishes recently so have saved this one. 🙂

  3. I had a dish like this in San Fran the last time I was there…and it was pretty mind blowing. I’m pretty much an eggplant fiend, though. Could eat it all day every day!

  4. This is comfort food for me!

  5. Yay! So glad you liked it. Adding little bits of unsweetened coconut does magic things. 🙂

  6. This sounds amazing. So many of my favorite things going on in one place! I love your description of roasted eggplant and wholeheartedly agree 🙂

  7. Oh wow! This is right up my alley. I absolutely ADORE eggplant. Pinning this recipe right now! Thanks so much for sharing.

    Question: Do you think that I could do this in the crockpot? It seems like one of those recipes that I could let stew all day.

  8. I’m excited to try, maybe tomorrow! hoping all the boys in my house will enjoy it too. just wondering.. is it flaked coconut?

  9. That must be packed with flavour Janet and there are a lot of my favourite flavours in there. Bet it is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.

  10. well no fresh tomatoes here but 2 beautiful eggplant- so will try with organic canned tomatoes (Ok, there is SOME produce here labelled as tomatoes but.. no). i think of eggplant as a dear friend and i am thrilled to share one with this recipe!

  11. so you put the eggplant to roast WHOLE in the oven? no need to cut it first like the tomatoes?

  12. I tried this recipe yesterday and it was WONDERFUL! Really flavorful, great balance of spices. Thanks for sharing the recipe – I loved it!

  13. […] used to wonder if my Indian dishes were up to snuff. It has been so long since I had been to an Indian restaurant, […]

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  17. […] was vegan, the only 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 […]

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