Yes, yes, I know this isn’t a food blog, but I’ve been watching Masterchef Australia all summer and just invented a delicious variation on mashed potatoes that I feel the need to share. But first, a bit of back-story about brinjals.
Brinjals (eggplants) are a polarizing vegetable. Growing up, my brother and I absolutely detested them; my brother still does. My parents and grandmother tried many times to convert us, extolling the vegetable’s versatility, but to no avail. I was headed for a brinjal-less life.
But when I started fieldwork on fan-throated lizards, I stayed for a while with my high-school maths teacher’s mother (how this arrangement came about is a long, very-specific-to-an-Indian-context story). She had already gone out of her way to facilitate fieldwork logistics and make me feel at home, so when she made brinjal sambhar for dinner almost every day, I ate it uncomplainingly. By the time I moved to my next site, I thought they were delicious.
Since then, I’ve been trying to make up for 20 years of not eating brinjals, by cooking them at least twice a month. My favourite dish now is baingan bharta, a dish built around fire-roasted brinjals. They also form the basis of these mashed potatoes, because seriously, there isn’t a yummier way to cook them!
You will need:
- skinny brinjals (large, round ones won’t roast fully, leading to lots of waste)
- crushed dried red chillies
- Boil the potatoes and mash them. Don’t add anything else yet.
- Roast the brinjals on an open flame, until the skin is black and starting to crack open. Be prepared for parts to actually catch on fire, but don’t worry, it won’t last once removed from the flame. If you don’t have a gas stove/burner, I admire your ability to cook anything at all! I guess you could try oven roasting them, but I doubt that would taste as good.
- Cool the roasted brinjals in cold water–the skin should fall off easily. Separate the cooked parts (they’ll be light brown, not white) and cut them into large-ish pieces.
- Melt some butter, and add chopped garlic, thyme, red chillies. Cook the brinjal pieces in the butter, and add a bit of salt. The amount of spices you add should be enough to flavour the potatoes as well.
- Mash the cooked, spiced brinjal into the potatoes, mixing them together as well as you can, and that’s it!