What is your favourite begun or eggplant recipe? Personally, I love begun posto and then begun basanti. Having said that, begun posto, shorshe begun and begun basanti are almost similar. I could probably group them together. They have two common ingredients, mustard and poppy seed. Their texture is also more or less same but the three dishes taste different altogether. It’s about one or two ingredients which indentifies them from each other.
Doi Begun and Begun Basanti are our favourites at home
While we were in Pune, I fell in love with bharwa baingan. Our bai used to make a rich and spicy bharwan baingan with crushed peanuts as the stuffing. However, Anindya was not very fond of it and he would insist on making a Bengali eggplant dish. Hence, begun pora or a baingan ka bharta was the easy choice, especially in winters. It was in the recent years that I picked up two recipes of eggplant that have become our house favourites. One is doi begun from Kankana’s book and the other is begun basanti. Ma used to make Begun basanti for Durga Pujo bhog at Ramakrishna Mission in Port Blair. And soon I picked it up from her.
Don’t you find eggplant ot be a very versatile vegetable. First of all, it has a million names- eggplant, aubergine and brinjal in english and many more local names. Then almost every community in India has an eggplant speciality. Italians love their eggplants and so do the Japanese and the Chinese. There are eggplants used in Thai and other South East Asian dishes too. The Greeks, French and the Portuguese also have many classics made with eggplant. As per wikipedia, Brinjal or eggplant originated in India and over time, it spread across the world.
Read Pritha Sen’s article on the history of this versatile vegetable- Brinjal and it’s importance in Bengali cuisine here.
One one essential ingredient for begun basanti to shine is the mustard paste. Having a primarily Bengali kitchen, mustard paste, both yellow and black, are always stocked in the refrigerator. My grandmother uses to insist of grinding mustard on a sheel nora (Bengali mortar and pestle) for the best result. However, due to paucity of time, we do use a regular spice grinder to make the mustard paste. Therefore Ma told me a trick. While grinding mustard seeds, instead of water, use milk and mustard oil. Also, ideally the milk and mustard oil should be used in batches. That brings out the flavour.
In most places, begun basanti is made with mustard paste and yogurt. The version of begun basanti that Ma taught me has more ingredienst, is richers an smoother in texture. I use a paste of raisins, cashews, poppy seed and mix it with yellow mustard paste and whisked yogurt. Why don’t you try this recipe and let us know how you liked it?
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- 6 nos eggplants thin 5 to 6 inch long Japanese or Chinese varieties (which can be cooked whole)
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard seed
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seed paste
- 1 tbsp golden raisins or kismis
- 1 tbsp broken cashew
- 1/2 cup thick yogurt
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 4 nos green chillies
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp all purpose flour or maida
- 6 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Wash the eggplants and make a slice longitudinally without removing the stem. The stem keeps the brinjal whole.
- Sprinkle salt, 1/4 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and rub them all over the eggplants. Keep them aside for 10 minutes while you prepare all your spice paste.
- Soak the yellow mustard seeds, cashews and kismis in a bowl of water for ten minutes. After that take these ingredients in a spice grinder and make a paste with 1 green chilli and little bit of mustard oil and milk. Do it in batches and use just as much milk as is required to make a good paste.
- Once you have a smooth paste, add the poppy seed paste to it. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt and add the rest of the turmeric powder and the mustard paste base along with the tsp of flour. Whisk it thoroughly.
- Now take the brinjals/ eggplants and discard any residual water. In a frying pan, take 2 tbsp of mustard oil and when it is smoking hot, add the brinjals and fry them till they are soft.
- The technique is to keep the flame medium to low. You need a bit of crisp outer and soft cooker inside. COver and cook and sprinkle some water if you feel that the brinjals have soaked all the oil.
- Once the eggplants are cooked all the way through, take them out and keep aside.
- In the same frying pan, add another tbsp of mustard oil and heat it. Add the mustard yogurt paste and stir continuously.
- Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water and keep cooking the sauce on a medium flame till the raw smell goes off and oil starts to float on top. It takes about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the cooked eggplants in the sauce and coat them with the sauce. Sprinkle sugar and adjust seasoning.
- Add split green chillies and drizzle extra mustard oil from top and turn off the heat.
- Serve begun basanti with steamed rice or even luchi.