Monday, December 14, 2009
It's a mystifying name to an person like me with no special knowledge of a language's etymology. Vankai Bajji is mashed brinjal, in a language where 'bajji'usually denotes a vegetable coated in batter and deep-fried. Perhaps it borrows from 'bhaji', which means a vegetable preparation? What it actually is, is a 'bharta', but a rather unorthodox one, influenced by idle musings on Mediterranean cuisine, a need to put two fat brinjals to use and not have to use much oil in the process.
The brinjal is roasted. The rest of it is all raw. The traditional bajji is made by adding tamarind extract, jaggery and chopped green chillies to the peeled and mashed brinjal (after due checks for any worms that might have suffocated to death). You can temper it if you like.
I didn't intend mine to have any tamarind, I was curious to see how it would taste with lime juice and the old, hard limes drying in the refrigerator came in handy. The knob on my grinder was set to maximum from a previous whizzing, and my mash turned into a homogeneous paste. To give it texture, I added some raw onion (also a component of its traditional cousin) and some red capsicum/pepper, just to be contrary.
I almost didn't want to taste it myself after that step, but I told myself not to be a coward, and went ahead, and I couldn't stop. The red capsicum added not only some crunch but a crisp, fresh, taste, and with the onion, a hint of sweetness. I even smeared it on a khakhra and had it for a snack.
Here's how you go about it:
'Giant' brinjals/aubergine/eggplant: 2 (to make about 2-2.5 cups of pulp)
Garlic: 6-8 cloves, peeled
Green chillies: 4-5, slit
Lime juice: 2-3 tsp
Red capsicum/pepper: 1, chopped
Onion: 1/2-3/4 cup, chopped
Oil: 2 tsp - to smear the brinjal, roast the green chillies and to temper
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Cumin: 1/2 tsp
Split and hulled urad dal: 1-2 tsp
Salt: To taste
Coriander: To garnish liberally
Coat the brinjals with just a little oil and roast them on the burner till they are charred all over. (I have some kind of a perforated plate on which I place the brinjals so that the skin doesn't clog the holes on the burner. Alternatively, you can grill them too.)
Let them cool down and peel them or put them under the tap - the skin will come away easily. Discard the skin.
Roast the green chillies in some of the oil.
Check for worms and if you find some, decide whether you feel like continuing with the whole thing. If you're not gonna let some spoilsport worms get the better of you, continue reading.
Put the brinjal flesh, salt, green chillies and garlic in the grinder and whiz to a smooth paste.
Add the lime juice, red capsicum and raw onion.
Heat the remaining oil and temper the mustard seed, cumin and urad dal in it, in that order. When the dal begins to turn brown, turn off the fire.
Use it as dip, chutney, mix it with curds, or like I did, main meal out of a bowl!
I am sending this off to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo.
Weekend Herb Blogging Brinjal/Aubergine/Eggplant Dip Chutney