I love twists. In stories, in life and in food. The surprise element is essential to life, lest monotony or boredom sets in. In my kitchen, there seldom is boredom because all of us enjoy cooking. If I am bored, one of the three, will chip in and make something, and it always is a surprise.
Recently my son joined the cookery club in his school. Now, that was really a pleasant surprise and since then he has also started taking interest in making foods that do not have chocolate in them.
Sometime back it was our anniversary. P and I had not told the kids, but on our way back home from work we thought we would surprise them by taking them out to “Flavours and Spices of India” (Earlier known as “Peter Wang”). It is a restaurant in Thane that we frequent a lot as they offer authentic and tasty Oriental and European cuisine. My son loves their fondue. My daughter loves their lasagna. My husband loves their sizzlers and I am extremely partial to ‘Veg Buddha Delight’ and tofu kebabs served with peanut sauce. I haven’t been able to review the restaurant so far as we seem to end up there for dinners and the light is never good for pictures. On the day of our anniversary the tables were turned.
As soon as I rang the doorbell, my son opened it just a little and stuck his head out, “Where is daddy?” When I told him daddy would come soon and that I really needed to get in, he reluctantly let me in. And what do you think was laid out? A big plate with three sandwiches. One vegan, one with cheese topping and the other was a halved sandwich. Each half had a heart piped with sauce and joined with a little carrot. It wasn’t fancy but well…. it was fancy! The daddy was proud of calling Jr. P ‘his boy’. Usually when we find things upset or broken or that he has been naughty, ‘his boy’ becomes ‘my boy’. The simple sandwiches made with lot of love and consideration were the best we had ever had. We did go to the restaurant later. I got here talking about twists, right? Look at me, ranting on, when what I wanted to tell you about was how the Italian twist to the bharta made a happy union! Anyway, the point is that it is nice to have kinks and twists in plans. That is how this recipe happened. A bid to clean out the refrigerator of leftovers led me to concoct a new fusion bharta with an Italian twist.
I had a bunch of coriander that was asking to be finished off. I had some pine nuts left this time because I has stored them out of my reach so I don’t keep digging into them as if they were peanuts. A huge eggplant has been sitting in my refrigerator since two days and I needed to cook it before it showed signs of rotting. I knew if the pine nuts were not used today they would again get over and I wouldn’t ever make the pesto I love.
Since I did not have basil, I decided on a coriander pesto. The vegan version tastes extremely good. After making the pesto I realized I did not have enough time for spaghetti as the rush hour had set it so I simply toppled it into the bharta I was making to take to office with rotis. I knew it would taste good. One cannot go wrong with coriander paste in an Indian dish. And I was right. I could not wait to share it with you, my dears! I would love you to try it out for yourselves and decide. So, here it is hot off the plate.
Dish: Baingan ka bharta with an Italian twist & a vegan coriander and pine nuts pesto
Time taken: 20-30 minutes
1 big eggplant (huge ones used for bharta or baba ghannoush)
1 Medium sized tomato, chopped fine
1 Medium sized onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp. any neutral oil such as sunflower oil
1/2 tsp. haldi (turmeric powder)
A pinch of asfoetida pdrd.
Salt and chilli powder to taste (I use saindhav namak – pink salt)
for the vegan coriander pesto:
4-5 Garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tbsp. pine nuts (chilgoze) or walnuts (I love pine nuts!)
1 Green chilli, chopped fine
1 Cup coriander leaves, chopped roughly
1/2″ piece of ginger, chopped fine
1 tbsp. sesame oil (I love idhayam brand)
Salt to taste (I use saindhav namak – pink salt)
A few green chillies.
Preparing the eggplants:
Grease the eggplant and roast it uniformly on fire so that the skin is charred and splits. Keep turning to cook uniformly. Remove and place it on a flat sieve placed over a plate. This arrangement will catch the juice of the brinjal in the plate without the charred skin bits.
When it cool enough to handle, slowly peel the charred skin off. You should be able to do this easily leaving the brown parts clung to eggplant. They are the tasty portions. Chop the eggplant roughly. Set aside.
Preparing the vegan coriander pesto:
In a mortar, put in the chopped garlic, green chillies, ginger and coriander. Crush uniformly with a pestle for two minutes. Now add the pinenuts or walnuts and salt to taste along with a tbsp. of sesame oil. You may use olive oil if you want. Keep crushing with the pestle till you get a coarse paste. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a kadhai or heavy vessel. Add cumin seeds and allow to splutter.
Add a teaspoon of the pesto and saute till the aroma of garlic is released, taking care not to burn.
Now add chopped onions. Saute adding a pinch of salt to allow it to sweat.
When translucent, add tomatoes. Saute for just a minute.
Add the prepared eggplant. Mix well.
Add the pesto. Mix well.
Adjust salt and chilli powder to taste. I cannot tell you the exact measure because I am often told my dishes are low on salt and not high on heat . The reason is I do not enjoy food that has lot of heat from chilli powder and am happy with ‘just enough salt to add taste’!!
Now add the residual juice that got strained into the plate. Mix well and serve hot with freshly blown up phulkas.
Grease just a bit of any neutral oil on a green chilli (the less hot variety). Char it on open flame. Brush a little pink salt all over and serve with rotis. I love the heat from this one! But then, I have just a small bite and the rest is gleefully eaten by the husband.