Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Baingan ka raita (Cooling yoghurt with fried eggplant)

This is an excellent raita to serve at parties or on any day that you have made a pullao or biryani. It is fancy and takes some time to prepare, so it is not an everyday raita. (We have plain yoghurt with daily meals, anyhow.)

You will have to make this raita in three steps.

Step 1) Roast you masala: Here you will prepare a red chile powder-cumin masala. The quantity I give here is more than you will need for one raita recipe. I prepare small amounts of this masala to keep on hand for most of my raita recipes.

2 heaping tbs whole cumin seeds
2 tbs powdered cumin
1 tsp red chile powder.

Heat a flat frying pan. Add in the whole cumin seeds and stir frequently, allowing them to color, but taking care not to burn them. Pour them into a wide bowl and keep aside, allowing them to cool. Turn off the flame under the pan, but when you have just poured out the whole cumin seeds and the pan is still very hot, put in the cumin and chile powder. Stir these with a wooden spoon for a few moments, just allowing them to release their oil and fragrance and wake up their flavor. Put this in another bowl and keep aside until it is cool.

When the whole cumin seeds are completely cool, add them into your spice grinder (mine is a small coffee bean grinder) and coarsely crush the seeds by pulsing the button a few times. There should be large bits of seeds and some whole seeds in the powder.

Pour these powders into separate storage containers, and keep them for use in raitas.

Eggplant cubes before frying
Step 2) Frying your eggplant: Select two medium sized, young eggplants. The less seeds, the better. My farmer's market has great eggplant right now, so this is why I made this recipe today.

Chop eggplant into bite sized cubes. The size I do is about 1 inch cubed. Keep aside.

You will need about 1/2 cup flour with a pinch of salt in it. Put this inside of a deep bowl.

Salted flour in a deep bowl for lightly dredging the cubes.

Pour about 2-3 cups oil into a vessel for deep frying. When the oil is hot, quickly toss about 1.5 cups of eggplant cubes in the flour and remove them, tapping off the excess flour, then putting them quickly into the oil. Fry these cubes until they are nicely golden and set them aside on paper towels. Repeat this in batches.

Frying the eggplant cubes
The flour helps keep the eggplant in shape. The good thing about this raita is that you can prepare the eggplant cubes earlier in the day, and keep them out of the fridge on the countertop and they will stay in good shape. You want to add these to the yoghurt mixture just before serving, otherwise moisture can seep out of them and discolor the raita. Even if you plan to fry the eggplant cubes and serve the raita right away, you MUST keep the cubes to the side until they are completely cooled. Do not add hot eggplant cubes to your yoghurt for this recipe.

Keep the fried cubes aside. They can sit out for half a day.
Step 3) The raita...making it all come together

4 cups of plain full fat yoghurt, which is a 32 oz. tub. I prefer Dannon brand since it only contains milk and yoghurt culture. There are no thickeners.
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tsp plus a pinch of salt (or to taste)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp chaat masala from a box
1/4 tsp white pepper
Ingredients for the raita
1 tsp coursely crushed cumin seed powder (see above)
1 tsp roasted cumin powder-chile powder mix (see above

Mix all of this together well.

Add in these vegetables:

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 finely chopped green chiles
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion*
1 tomato, seeds and pulp removed, finely chopped

When you have mixed all of these things together, you can keep this in the fridge until you are ready to serve. At serving time, add in your fried eggplant cubes.

*If the onion seems strong tasting, soak the onion in cold water for 20 mins while you cut the other ingredients, then strain it and add it to the yoghurt. This will temper the sharpness of it so that it won't overpower your light raita.

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