Baked Eggplant (Begun Bhaja)

Who doesn’t like eggplant? It’s one of those vegetables (like the mighty spud) that is so versatile, that even simply salted and cooked with a couple spices really brings out it’s flavor. This is a very popular dish from West Bengal. ‘Begun’ is Bangla for eggplant or ‘Baingan’, and ‘Bhaja’ means ‘fried’. Traditionally deep fried in mustard oil, it’s not something most people take to the first time. And while it is delicious to eat, it is super-packed with unwanted calories, especially since eggplant is notorious for soaking up oil like a sponge. Blotting the oil out using kitchen towels really doesn’t solve the excess grease issue, since a lot of oil resides in the soft flesh after deep frying. I have been using a much less calorie laden recipe for years, and decided it tastes almost as good as the traditional recipe. No, let me rephrase that. It tastes a lot better! The sweet taste of success (at cutting down unwanted calories), and much lighter on the stomach!!

Ingredients

(serves 4-6)

  • 1 large purple eggplant
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp mango powder (amchoor)
  • 2 tsp mustard or vegetable or olive oil (I use cooking spray)

Method

Wash the eggplant and cut the top off. Slice the eggplant into discs about ½ inch thick. Keep them in water to prevent oxidation while cutting. Drain the eggplants and place in a large bowl. Add salt, turmeric,  red chilli powder and mango powder. Sprinkle a few drops of water and coat the spices well over each disc. Cover and let marinate for about 30 minutes. Now place the discs on a greased flat ovenproof tray without overlapping. I find that a non-stick track or shallow pyrex dish  works well. Cover the tray/dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 ºF on both sides till soft.This usually takes about 30-40 minutes. Prick with a fork to make sure the eggplant is cooked. Then take the eggplant out of the oven. In a nonstick griddle or frying pan, add 1-2 tsp of oil and place the discs gently to crisp on both sides. I have tried broiling the eggplants in the oven as well, but they just don’t come out right somehow and end up too dry. If you have access to cooking spray, it evenly spreads across food and a little goes a long way. Once done, season with more salt and red chilli powder if desired. As a variation, I often sprinkle some chaat masala on top before serving. Enjoy as a side dish with rotis, gourmet Indian breads or rice.

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About Hani

Just another foodie, passionate about cooking and entertaining. If I had been born 20 years later, I might have chosen a career in domesticity and made a fortune out of it. Nothing makes me happier than being asked for a second or third helping of something I have cooked. And if someone requests a "doggie bag", they make their way as a recurring guest on my list!
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