18 April 2015

Recipe for Baingan Bharta - Punjabi roasted eggplant curry

Punjabi menu - Baingan Bharta, Dhabewali Dal, Parathas

For someone who hated brinjals all through my childhood, my present love for Baingan Bharta is something that surprises me no end. I don't recall when I tried making this first or whether I ate it at a restaurant that led to this love. Whenever I'm ordering vegetables, I make sure there are big brinjals in the list so one of the dishes in the weekly menu is always baingan bharta. It is surprising that I have not shared my recipe for the same on the blog in the last 9+ years. 

Baingan Bharta is a popular Punjabi dish that pairs superbly with plain rotis /parathas and the large eggplants are often charred in a tandoor in the highway side dhabas to prepare this dish. The curry is prepared with a mix of onions and tomatoes fried with ginger, garlic and other spices, the end result being a thick puree like dish and not the typical watery or creamy curry base.

While a lot of recipes will say it is okay to roast the brinjal / eggplant in the oven, I am of the firm belief that nothing compares to the smoky aroma that roasting it on a direct flame (or even better, on charcoals) imparts to the dish. With a light coat of oil all over the brinjal with its stem intact (which you can use to rotate the brinjal from side to side), place on the flame, and keep rotating it until it is charred and black on all sides. When a knife or skewer inserted in, goes through smoothly, it is ready. A fellow food blogger, Nikhil Merchant has this excellent tip of making tiny slits in the raw brinjal, inserting a clove of garlic into each slit and then roasting this on the flame. The roasted garlic when mashed along with the eggplant gives a big boost of flavour to the dish.

For kitchens without an open flame cooking system, the oven + grill is the next best option. Slit lengthwise, coat with oil and place cut side down on a baking tray. Keep the tray under the grill / broiler for 15-20 minutes. Another tip to avoid messing up your cooking stove with the skin and juices of the eggplant is to wrap the eggplant in 2-3 layers of heavy duty foil and then place it on the flame, rotating once in a while until the whole vegetable is soft.

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Baingan Bharta
Recipe for Baingan Bharta | Punjabi style roasted eggplant curry
Serves 3-4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: less than 20 minutes


500 grams globe eggplant (2 medium sized) 
1 tbsp oil
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 large cloves garlic, crushed, finely chopped
1 tsp finely grated ginger
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp dhania-jeera powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp salt


Directly roast the eggplants on the flame until completely charred from all sides. This needs to be monitored to ensure that eggplants are rotated over to all sides and get uniformly charred. A knife can be passed through the eggplant at the end of 7-8 minutes, to check if it is cooked inside. In this case, knife will pass through smoothly, in case eggplant is uncooked inside, you will feel the resistance. Remove the eggplants onto a plate and cover with a large bowl and keep aside.
In 5 minutes, the eggplant will be cool enough to handle, and you can peel off the skins by merely tugging at them. Mash all the flesh, discard the stems and keep aside.
In a heavy bottomed kadai, heat oil.
Add the asafoetida, cumin seeds.
Once cumin seeds splutter, add the ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. 
Add the finely chopped onions, toss well, sprinkle a pinch of salt. Cover and cook until onions are soft, around 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the remaining salt, and dry spices, cover and cook until tomatoes are completely soft and mushy. Stir this well.
To this, add the mashed eggplant flesh, around 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer.
Sprinkle garam masala powder towards the end and bring to a final simmer.
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with chapatis.

The recipe for Punjabi Baingan Bharta is part of the endeavor to create a collection of recipes of Traditional Indian Cuisines in collaboration with a few bloggers who share the same passion of cooking. Find more Traditional Recipes from Punjab by #TheKichenDivas all April. Follow our Pinterest board where all these recipes can be easily accessed and bookmarked.

Also check:
 Meethe Chawal from Fun Food Frolic
Lahsuni Dal Tadka (with Pumpkin) from Archana's Kitchen

12 April 2015

Good Food Reads this week

This is something new I'm starting on the blog this year, sharing with you some of the good food reads from this week. Some are informative while the others inspiring. With so much food writing being churned out each week by food websites, newspapers and blogs, I'm thinking it will be fun to present to you a curated mix of stuff. Consider this as a prelude to a newsletter :)

filter coffee, good food reads, good food reads on saffrontrail
a most superb cup of filter kaapi had at Hallimane, Bangalore, this morning

The James Beard Foundation has announced its list of 2015 Book Award nominees. Check out the cookbooks in contention for this prestigious award. 

How to make the best French Press coffee - right from choosing the kind of grind to temperature of water to blooming time to brewing time, this one is for perfectionists and coffee connoisseurs.

The Eating Well test kitchen baked over 400 cookies to see what effect different sweeteners have on cookies. Whether you love chocolate chip cookies or not, this is an experiment worth reading about. 

5 unexpected ways to use Tahini 

PRINTABLE: A weekly menu planner that includes breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner PLUS workout. Simple and beautiful design from Back to her Roots blogger, this one asks to be printed out and used. 

All you need to know about Pisco  - a brandy popular in Chile and Peru

On the Instagram blog, Nigella Lawson writes about her favourite follows . Are you following me on Instagram, for sneak peeks into my daily kitchen to what's the latest news in my kitchen garden, you'll find it all there. Excuse the occasional selfie though :P

Ever wondered why you want to reach out for steaming hot rice and rasam with some ghee when you're feeling low and nothing else can make you feel so? Read why comfort food comforts.

Lastly, an interesting read on alcohol in India, the laws, the prohibitions, where Michael Snyder explores the laws and permits in Bombay, Gujarat and the cities in the North East - The cost of a drink on Lucky Peach.

11 April 2015

Recipe for Dhabewali Dal - Punjabi mixed lentils

Indian recipes, Punjabi recipes, Dhabewali Dal, Dhaba dal, Punjabi dal recipes

To be honest, I've never eaten in a 'real' dhaba. But yes, I can claim to have eaten in a few mock dhabas, starting with Pritam da Dhaba at Dadar (Mumbai) in my childhood with Amma and Appa. It was one of the few restaurants we would eat out at.  I remember staring at the side counter of their open air section, in complete awe of the chefs throwing the roomali roti in the air to stretch it out. The seating was authentic dhaba style, rope cots with colourful cushions and waiters in the Punjabi kurta and dhoti. I also remember the copper plates and tall copper glasses that they served food and chaas in. It was an amazing place to dine out for me as a kid in the 80s. Post 2000, we saw a slew of such dhaba themed restaurants open in Mumbai, but none to match the wonder that the first one held for me. 

Dhabewali dal is a hearty dish using black udad dal and rajma, and sometimes a mix of some other lentils as well. It is reminiscent of cold evenings in the North of India, sitting in a busy dhaba by the side of a highway, smoke billowing from the tandoor, the aroma of burning coals and fresh out of the tandoor rotis, and a few hearty dishes brought to the rickety table and a large glass of lassi to wash it all down.

Indian recipes, Punjabi recipes, Dhabewali Dal, Dhaba dal, Punjabi dal recipes

There is another variation of Dhabewali dal, which is Langarwali Dal served in the community meal service called Langar in Gurudwaras (Sikh place of worship). That can be prepared similarly by using equal parts of split udad dal and chana dal (Bengal gram dal). The soaking time can be reduced, as compared to rajma, used in Dhabewali Dal.

P.S. Just did a quick check on Zomato while typing this, and Pritam da Dhaba still exists! I've mentally added this to my to-do list while in Mumbai for the next 5 weeks, just for nostalgia sake, if not anything else. If you have any reccos for me in Mumbai AND Delhi, leave me a comment or Tweet to me @saffrontrail :) 

Indian recipes, Punjabi recipes, Dhabewali Dal, Dhaba dal, Punjabi dal recipes

Recipe for Dhabewali Dal
Serves 4-6

Equipment required:
Pressure cooker
Heavy bottomed kadai

3/4 cup split black lentils (split udad dal) [you can even use whole udad with skin]
2 tbsp Kashmiri rajma (kidney beans)
1 tbsp oil + 1 tsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
pinch of asafoetida
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, quartered and pureed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala powder
Coriander for garnish
Lemon wedges to serve


  1. Wash and soak the split udad dal and rajma in plenty of water for minimum 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain the soaked dals and place in a pressure cooker with 4-5 cups of water.
  3. Close the pressure cooker lid and after 3 whistles, keep on sim (lowest flame) for 10-15 minutes. After this, turn off the flame and allow the cooker to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil+ghee in a heavy bottomed kadai.
  5. Add the cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add ginger, garlic, asafoetida and onions. On a medium flame, cook this until onions are lightly golden and soft. 
  6. Add the pureed tomatoes, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt and bring to a simmer.
  7. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, add the cooked dals from the pressure cooker, salt and bring to a simmer.
  8. Allow this to simmer gently for another 5 minutes, after which you can sprinkle the garam masala powder, stir well and then remove from heat.
  9. Garnish with lots of finely chopped coriander.
  10. Serve hot with tandoori rotis or steamed rice.
The recipe for Dhabewali Dal is part of the endeavor to create a collection of recipes of Traditional Indian Cuisines in collaboration with a few bloggers who share the same passion of cooking. Find more Traditional Recipes from Punjab by #TheKichenDivas all April. Follow our Pinterest board where all these recipes can be easily accessed and bookmarked.

Rao ki Kheer (Sugarcane juice kheer) from Sinamon Tales
Dal Makhani from Fun Food Frolic
Pindi Chole from Archana's Kitchen

4 April 2015

Recipe for Shikanji - an Indian lemonade

Summer has hit Bangalore hard and sent us hurtling to our freezers, to pack our drinks with ice. I'm not a big fan of ice in my drinks, but come summer and it changes everything. Today, three of us food blogger friends drove some 25 kilometers in search of props for food photos and thanks to the heat, by the time I came back home, I was like a rag doll that's gone through an extended cycle in the washing machine. In short, completely drained out. If something refreshed me, it was this tall glass of shikanji, and I can tell it is going to be a life-saver in the coming few weeks.

I've never been fond of aerated drinks except for a short phase in school days when I used to love Limca and Gold Spot. I suppose that was more so because they fell in the prohibited foods/ very occasional treats category and as kids we always loved such foods. Give me a good homemade lemonade and I'm a happy girl. My aunt always has a bottle of homemade lemon concentrate that she serves with roasted cumin powder and black salt and it is absolutely refreshing for the Bombay summers. This is my take on the Punjabi shikanji, that I've had in some of my favourite Punjabi restaurants. A shot of vodka or gin won't go amiss in this one, if you're looking at something more potent for a day time drink. Call it our own Indian version of Pimms ;-)

Traditionally, Shikanji or Shikanjvi (nothing to do with our South Indian kanji :P ) is a spiced lemonade, which has lemon juice, ginger, roasted cumin powder. My recipe for Shokanji has a twist by way of adding tusli and mint. Mint is the best cooling herb for summer, tulsi is great for any respiratory allergies and for building immunity, plus these two are currently growing like crazy in my garden, so I wanted to put them to good use. By grinding them to extract their juices, the drink acquires a lovely green colour along with the intense flavour of mint, and the mellower notes of tulsi (holy basil). If you find that the taste of Black salt or kala namak does not suit your palate, by all means use regular salt. I buy bottles of liquid jaggery or nolen gur (when in season) from our local grocery suppliers, and it saves me the trouble of making sugar syrup for such drinks. It's also a consolation that jaggery syrup is a tad healthier than sugar syrup.

You can also check out my summer coolers playlist on youtube, which has Korean Boricha (barley tea), Vietnamese iced coffee, green tea cooler, lemongrass iced tea etc.

Recipe for Shikanji / Shikanjvi / Indian Spiced Lemonade
Makes 2 glasses

2" knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
generous handful of tulsi leaves, washed and cleaned
generous handful of mint leaves, washed and cleaned
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp black salt
1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
4 tbsp sugar syrup or jaggery syrup or nolen gur syrup

Directions In a small mixer, grind the ginger, mint and tulsi with 1/4 cup water. 
Using a fine meshed sieve, squeeze out all the juice, with the back of a spoon.
Add to a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, black salt, roasted cumin powder and 2 cups of water.
Add the sweetener of choice, mix well.
To serve, add 2-3 ice cubes in a glass and top with the drink.
For a more fun presentation, serve in recycled jam jars or pickle jars! Serve chilled.

The recipe for Shikanji is part of the endeavor to create a collection of recipes of Traditional Indian Cuisines in collaboration with a few bloggers who share the same passion of cooking. Find more Traditional Recipes from Punjab by #TheKichenDivas all April. Follow our Pinterest board where all these recipes can be easily accessed and bookmarked.

Gobhi Paratha - Archana's Kitchen

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