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Embracing my South Indian side. With Aubergines

I’m a big fan of aubergines. Or as we call it here, brinjal. It’s such an awesome vegetable. And more or less takes on any flavour that you give it.  I know a lot of people who can't stand this vegetable, even pretend they have allergies so that they don't have to eat it. But the one's who love them, love them hard. My sister for example. My friend N. And I proud to say this, but my husband is a convert too. (Or maybe he doesn't have a choice, I do bring it home every week).

So shiny. So pretty. So purple. You can do so many things with it. You're not stuck with with some baingan ka bharta (Spicy mashed eggplants with peas) only  but can make a Babaganoush or grilled eggplant salad. Or stuffed eggplants with peanuts. Or wrapped around feta with a sprinkling of pomegranates. Or grilled and shaped into a boat with buttermilk sauce. Or Eggplant Parmesan. I think I’ve become a bigger fan of the vegetable ever since I discovered Yotam Ottolenghi, but you know that’s for later.
Today’s post is about a childhood memory, a comfort food that I think I ask my grandmother to make over and over again, especially if there's left over rice.

It's called Vangi bhaat. Or Aubergine and potato rice. And I love it.

Vangi bhaat and first attempt at photography

It's got coconut, chillies and a whole range of masalas (spices), which, if you are familiar with Indian food, will always ALWAYS be at home.

I often use the MTR's Vangi bhaat powder which is very because it is hard to get a lot of the spices. But this time I made it from scratch. A long conversation with my grandmother and a Google search helped with fine tune the recipe. And I have to say, I've nailed it. Fresh vangi bhaat masala against powdered masala, fresh wins. Hands down.

Please don't feel deterred by the list of ingredients. It's really not that complicated. If you can't find certain ingredients such as curry leaves or dried capers or cloves, it's ok. It'll still turn out awesome.

Vangi Bhaat
Serves 4

1 cup rice. Short-grained rice. Basmati if you have no other choice
(leftover is best use 2 and a half cups of prepared rice)
4 small aubergines quartered
2 medium potatoes quatered

For masala paste
1/2 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
¼ tsp moggu/ dried caper buds (only thing you might have difficulty in sourcing, if you can’t find it, is ok. Not the end of the world)
2 cardamom pods
1 dried red chilli (more if you like it hot)
3-4 cloves
1 cm piece of cinnamom stick
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

For tempering
2-3 stalks curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 bayleaf
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste

4 tbsp minced cilantro
1 Lemon


Rice: If you’re making fresh rice, boil with a pinch of salt. Drain and lay it out on a platter so that it dries out.
I make rice like this: for 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water if the rice has soaked in water for ½ an hour. Otherwise just top it up with another quarter cup.

Masala: Heat oil, sauté all the masala ingredients for 3 to 5 minutes till the ginger garlic doesn’t smell raw. Cool (or at least try) and then grind it into a fine paste.

Vegetables: Wash and dry the eggplants and chop into quarters. Wash, peel and quarter the potatoes too. In a dry saucepan, add ½ tsp of oil and stir fry the vegetables for 2 mins. Add the masala and a cup of water and let it cook on simmer for atleast 15 mins. If you feel that the masala is drying up too fast, add another splash of water.

Assemble: Once the rice has dried up, temper it. In a small pan, add oil and throw in the mustard seeds, Once they start spluttering add cumin seeds, bay leaf, curry leaves onion, turmeric powder and salt. Turn off and mix into rice. Add the rice into the vegetable and mix. Use either your fingers to lightly fluff and mix or forks, if you hate your fingers like that lady who sees are fingers as things that carry parasites in Roald Dahl's Going Solo. Anything else you’ll ruin the texture and land up mashing it

Garnish with cilantro, squeeze in a bit of lemon and serve hot. Eat with hand.

Issa gorgeous. Trust me.

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  1. Vango, vangi. Do the baingan chaat with dahi and anar recipe also.