Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bhagara Baingan - Baby Eggplants in Creamy Nut Sauce #Cookthebook

Today, I am sharing the recipe for bhagara baingan, a popular curry from the Hyderabad region. Baby eggplants are cooked in a spicy creamy sauce with coconut, peanuts, and sesame. It is simply delicious served with white rice, pulao, or biriyani. I am linking this post for #cookthebooks and there is a story behind not only this but every food that helps us enjoy happier times as well as cope up with pain and loss.

Deb Of Kahakai Kitchen is hosting the December2020/January2021 event for cookthebooks. We read a book and cook something inspired by the book and share it in our blogs or social media. For this session, we are reading the Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers edited by Natalie Eve Garrett. This book has stories of celebrity writers about food and what food helped them to celebrate joy, overcoming pain, healing, pains, and loss.

Food brings everyone together. It helps enjoy your happiness, overcome your fears, and comforts loss. This book is about that. When I read the authors describing their experiences, every time my mind connected everything with my mom. There were a few authors that I felt closely connected with my mom doing the same. Listed below is the list of some of the authors' experiences which I was able to correlate.

Mira JacobHome Coming - Dark Leaves and Warm Milk: Mira wrote that her mom could pinpoint "you could do better, ....but she would know the misery,... misery can't be taken away- by talking about neighbors politics, scandals...", of how her mom would comment on microplane grater and how her mom prefers mincing ginger.....My mom too has her own methods and she too would say you could do better though inside she knew the pain and would want me to come out and move ahead in my life. 

Kristen Iskandrian - Grief Pickles: The author loves pickles. Her Armenian father introduced her mango condiment which she loved the most. My mom makes amazing pickles. Indian style pickles are the spicy ones that everyone says oooh and aah! Right from my childhood, I used to love one of her lemon pickle, which in turn my kids love too. 

Emily Raboteau  - Healing - Julia's Stepchild:  Emily wrote about the congee, her stepmom Julia made when she was weak. This reminds me of the congee our mom made for us when we were sick. In fact, she would feed us spoon by spoon so that we would get better. Healing!

Amitava Kumar - Minute Rice and Other Miracles: He uses recipes as broadly directional, not as precise steps to follow perfection, proceeding simply by tasting and then improvising, sticking close to the recipe. He started collecting recipes initially from the time his cousin gave him a recipe for chicken with green chilies when he visited his family back. This reminds me of the time when I moved far away from home.  I came here with some of the recipes written on a couple of papers by my mom. I followed her recipes strictly though whenever I missed her food. 

Laura Van Den BergPains - Comfort With Eggs: Though Laura was an anorexic teen, she learned to cook with eggs. She helped mom recover from knee replacement surgery (Though mom had frozen casseroles, but was weak and not interested to eat). Laura made a frittata, remembering close friends sister making it. Made her less painful. I feel that nurturing our parents when they are in need would definitely help us overcome our pains and theirs too! 

Claire MessudPains - The Taste of Consolation: They moved to many places. Her mom made perfect meals though ambitious of becoming a lawyer. Her mom had to give away her dream too. 

I found a perfect match in the qualities of Claire Messud's mom's description with my mom.  She described her mom as a meticulous housekeeper, a devotee of small joys of all kinds and any opportunity for laughter, sang songs, watched silly shapes of cloud,  and cooking. These qualities perfectly match with those of my mom's. My mom encourages everyone from the heart. She is a stellar housewife. My mom has a culinary gift. She is a natural. My dad loves her cooking. He would be satisfied with the food made with her hands though he won't say it. I remember how I enjoyed the rice flour - buttermilk upma she would make for me. As a child, I never ate anything spicy while the rest of the family ate spicy food. Her yogurt rice, upma, dal rice, kheer, and a little amount of pickle is all I would want for. Her food gave pure comfort to all of us. She made sure she prepares the favorites of her guests too! She would just do everything in a jiffy and they would turn out to be great. I  have seen her reading a lot of books, notes down some recipes, always trying to improve herself. She tries them Like how Amitava Kumar, she may not strictly follow the recipe. She would use the recipe and alter it to suit our taste palette bringing comfort to us. She watches with immense satisfaction. She is selfless. She used to read books aloud to my grandma when my grandma couldn't read, bringing happiness to both of them. She would know what everyone wants and would try to do the best for them, though it wouldn't benefit her. She saw happiness in that. At the same time, she wouldn't let us dwell on our shortcomings. She would ask us to outgrow indirectly. She celebrated small pleasures be it listening to music, or whistling, or tweeting with the birds in the backyard., or drawing...I have seen how she took care of my grandma's when they were old and dying. She gave the utmost care. She would take care of us when we were sick just like Julia, healing us and making us strong. We call her pickling queen in our family circle. When I was young, I always loved to eat her lemon pickle and yogurt rice. That gave me comfort and a secure feeling. I love her mango pickle varieties and learned to make them. I love to make them or have those pickles (made by her) with rice or roti (just like how Kristen loved the mango condiments). That helps me overcome the pain that I am not near her, and helps me focus and move ahead. In fact, my kids love her pickles and ask for them again and again. My daughter loves a sweet delicacy, Jangri, made by my mom only. She wouldn't eat if I  make or anyone else gave her or even store-bought. She cooks everything filled with love. I could see the happiness my mom brings to my family. She never expected anything in turn. That always made me wonder. I never liked cooking when I was a kid, I was never anorexic like Laura. I knew to cook something to thrive. I started missing my mom and saw all her qualities when far apart. I have a food blog today as I want to do everything for my kids what she did for us and learned a lot from her and from books. 

The distance separating us and the silence taught me many things in life. I learned to see things from many different angles. When I was there, I didn't cook anything for her that she craved. We are living thousands of miles apart. I had the chance to take care of her when she was sick once, a couple of years back. I made her what she liked to eat at that time and that gave satisfaction to me.  When I read this book, I couldn't think of the recipes shared by the authors. All I could think was what my mom liked, what I could do for her or did for her, for a selfless, down to earth person. She always cooked (and cooks) for everyone and never expected anyone to make anything for her. All through her life, she is hardworking without complaining. What she liked from my cooking gave me comfort and happiness. It gave her comfort and happiness too. She likes my tomato soup, bhagara baingan, fresh dinner rolls (whole wheat rolls, jalapeno rolls), cream bun, dum biriyani, pulao, malai kofta, salads, etc... Making and enjoying these with my parents gave me not only comfort and happiness but also the strength to calm the pain arising from the fact that though old, they are managing everything by themselves and I am far apart. Her favorite vegetable is eggplant. Back home my dad isn't a fan of eggplants and so this vegetable came home once in a while or when we have guests who liked it. She never made bhagara baingan at home but enjoyed it so much when I made it. I made it a few times when she visited us last year. I decided to share the recipe of bhagara baingan as this gives me comfort and happiness. Food helps us enjoy happier times as well as cope up with difficult times. Sharing this recipe makes a lot of sense to me. Here is the recipe.


Baby eggplants -10
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek (methi) seeds  - 1/2 tsp
Nigella seeds (kalonji) - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaf - 1 sprig
Salt - 1 tsp
Green chilies - 2 -3, slit lengthwise
Cilantro - 1 tbsp, for garnish
Garlic - 1.5 tsp
Ginger - 1.5 tsp
Oil - 1/4 cup
Tamarind - 1 tsp (soak in 1.5 cups water)

To make the creamy paste

Sesame seeds - 3 tbsp
Peanuts - 3 tbsp
Coconut - 3 or 4 tbsp
Chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Cumin powder - 1.5 tsp


Dry roast the peanuts and sesame separately as their roasting time differs. Grind to the toasted nuts, coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder, and coconut to a paste with a little water. Keep aside.

Slit the eggplants like a plus sign without cutting the eggplants completely. Heat 2 tbsp oil, add the eggplants, and shallow fry them till they are soft. Keep aside. This may take about 7-8 minutes.

Add remaining oil to the same pan, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, green chilies, red chilies, curry leaves, and sauté for a minute till it is aromatic. Add the chopped onions and sauté till they become transparent. Grind the garlic and ginger to a fine paste. Add it to the onions and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Add the eggplants, ground paste, salt, and tamarind water. Mix gently not to break the eggplants as they are soft. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.

 Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro. Serve.


  1. Oh my, that eggplant looks amazing! I love how you found some of the authors relatable to your own experiences. So glad you joined in!

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your mother! You are so blessed to have had that upbringing with her. I too love eggplant, though my husband does not. I did add it into a curry last night, though it was well spiced and cooked enough, along with other vegetables, so that he actually enjoyed the dish.

    1. Yes, I am blessed! Also blessed to have friends like you guys. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Clearly I need to find some baby eggplants

    1. Yes, you do. Please try and let me know. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. This looks super flavorful and delicious!

  5. I am so glad that you joined us for CTB Rahda. Welcome to our group. I love that so many of the essays spoke to you and that curry sounds absolutely delectable.

    1. Thanks Wendy. I enjoyed it! It was a great experience.

  6. I am the only eggplant lover in my household. But I might just "torture everyone" for an evening so I can try this recipe. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I understand your feelings. My son considers eggplants as "torture" but the rest of us love it. Thanks for stopping by Camilla.

  7. Van Den Berg's essay resonated with me as well. I love those baby eggplants. Thanks for sharing this spectacular recipe with us.

  8. This dish looks so comfy. Is it Indian? Thanks for joining us!

  9. Just beautiful! I like the photo and the word "Magical Ingredients" on it. Glad you joined our CtB club :)