nawabi baigan

My mother is a strong hater of aubergine. Sorry, make that Brinjal. Oh no, make it Eggplant. Whichever name you might be calling it, she still will turn up her nose to it. I would, as a child, beg her to fry slices of aubergines in hot mustard oil, and she would do the work with her face screwed up in a mask of distaste. So, as soon as I learned how to cook, one of the first jobs I took over was cooking vegetables she disliked.

Nawabi Baigan

Nawabi Begun, or Nawabi Baingan was a dish which began on a rainy day with an enthusiastic me making a paste of a mass of cashew and poppy seeds. My intent was to make a rezala with mutton, but my father returned empty-handed, with the bad news that the mutton was sold out in our local shop, and a mass of baby aubergines in a bag. Sad but determined, I fried up a batch of it up, and made a gravy, and cooked the lot up. My mother tasted the gravy and sneaked out a bowl of it. I surmised, it must have been good.

aubergine frying

Start with around 500 gm. baby aubergines. You can, of course, use a large one, and cut it into cubes, but baby ones give this a lot of flavor. Cut them into cubes (I just slice off the top and then cut each in four pieces), and set aside. Toss them quickly in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and then place them, in batches, in a hot, greased pan, cut side down. Cook till they turn slightly brown on each side, turn and cook for another few minutes till the skin changes color slightly. Remove and keep aside.

Add whole spices

 Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan and add a pinch of whole cumin, one large black cardamom, split, 3 whole cloves and 6 peppercorns. Stir them about till the cumin splutters, and then add 150 gm. finely chopped onions. Stir till the onions are slightly browned on the edges.

onion and ginger garlic paste

Add 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste. Stir it in. Then add 2 green chillies, sliced. Stir that in as well. Add 2 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon garam masala powder (or make a powder of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace), and 1 teaspoon Kashmir chilli powder (you can substitute with normal chilli powder, hot paprika, or cayenne pepper). Stir this well, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and fry for 1 minute.

tomato puree added to the mixture

 Stir in 1/2 cup tomato puree. I pureed two medium tomatoes and added it, but you can always use store-bought tomato puree. Mix well, cook till the mixture starts to thicken and release oil. It will take a bit of time, but make sure the tomatoes are well-cooked and oil starts to float up.

Fried Masala

Add to this 2 tablespoon of cashew-poppy seed paste. The ratio of cashew to poppy seeds will be roughly 50-50, so you can also add 1 tablespoon of each. Stir well to incorporate this, cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of water, salt and sugar to taste, and the aubergines.

Nawabi Begun is done!

Make sure the water comes to a boil, then drop heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the vegetable is done to your liking. Adjust seasoning if required, remove from heat, and serve with hot naan or rotis, with some freshly chopped coriander leaves on top.

Aubergine cooked in Nawabi Style
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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