I suppose this is India’s answer to baba ganoush. There are several versions but one common factor is charring the egg plants on open direct flame. This gives a unique smoky flavour. This is great with flat breads.
600g egg plants
100g onions, finely chopped
75g tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
2tbsps tomato paste
1 generous handful of coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ -1 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of sugar
I like to char the egg plants by putting them direct on moderate flames and char them for 12 -15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs. The flesh needs to get soft and the skin burnt all over. Keep an eye so they don’t catch fire. This is a messy process, so if you like you can line the area surrounding the hob heads with foil.
If you want to do under the grill, pierce egg plants with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil lined tray and place directly under hot grill. Keep turning them periodically so they get an even char on the skin. Can take an hour perhaps.
Once the cooked egg plants are cool enough to handle, make a slit down the centre and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Try and avoid the black skin. Set aside.
Heat the measured oil in a medium sized wok or kadai. When hot enough, add the garlic making sure you reduce the heat so the garlic pieces don’t burn. After twenty seconds, add the onions and green chillies. Fry onions for three minutes, Toss the coriander leaves and stems. Continue frying and when you can smell the coriander leaves, put the turmeric and chilli powder. After a minute, stir in the tomato paste, salt and sugar. This will become a thick paste almost difficult to fry but important to keep mixing as you don’t want it all sticking to the bottom of the wok.
Mix in the chopped tomatoes, when the pieces are all mashed and incorporated, add the eggplant flesh. Once heated through, your bharta is ready to be served. Serves 4-6.