Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oven baked Begun Bhaja -- and a book review


Definition of "Bossy" according LS with real life example -- "Bossy maane....bossy maane. Ei je dhoro tomar ei room ta clean korar kotha. Kintu tmi korcho na. Ar tumi amake bolcho clean korte jate tumi araam kore cha khete paro. Tar mane tumi Bossy."

She says, "Bossy means...well bossy means. Ok, lets take you. It is your job to clean this room(at this point she looks at me pointedly). But, you don't do it. Instead you tell me to do it so that you can sit and drink your tea. That means you are being bossy".

Point noted.



Everyone knows that a Bong loves his or her Begun Bhaja. Slices of purple eggplant, tossed in turmeric powder and salt and then shallow fried in hot oil. With a good quality eggplant, the flesh of the fried being is so soft that it is not wrong to call it "buttery". Growing up, the begun bhaja was a standard side with dal and rice and a fish curry in my and many Bengali's home. I never liked it nor did I spare any thought towards it. It was that one more bhaja served with dal.

Today, I do not make  a begun bhaja all that often simply because I don't want to do the frying, an eggplant sucks up oil fast and is as much a gas guzzler as a Hummer H1. I would rather eat a begun pora than a bhaja, I claim.

And then a reader(if you are reading this and had suggested this oven method please leave a note brilliant Lavanya Krishnan) said that she does it in the oven. "Click". Went the rusted switch in my brain. I chopped the eggplant, tossed them with turmeric, salt and couple tsp of olive oil and popped them in the oven.  They came out near perfect like a bhaja.

Then to get more experimental I dusted them with cajun seasoning and sprinkled some paprkia.

Next I wanted to rub them with cinnamon powder and nutmeg. But I restrained. This far and no further was the mandate. "Don't mess with my Begun Bhaja",  was a familiar cry around home.Hah! tell me who is "Bossy" around here.

Traditionally the Begun Bhaja is fried. In Mustard Oil. As in this Begun Bhaja. In the oven version I used olive oil instead of Mustard but you can use the latter too.

Wash 1 slender japanese eggplant in water and pat dry

Chop the japanese eggplant in rounds, each 1/2" thick.

Toss the slices with
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp Olive oil
salt

Grease a baking tray. Arrange the eggplant slices on the tray. No piling or overlapping.

If you have a cooking spray, spray the surface of the eggplant slices. Or else you can smear them with drops of olive oil.

Pop in an oven. I used a toaster oven where I baked them at 300F for about 30 mins. After 15 mins from start I turned the tray and sprayed the slices once more. Towards the end, I flipped the slices, sprayed with little more cooking spray and did it for 5 more minutes.
Oven temperature and timing will vary. The larger oven temp should be about 350F. Also depending on the quality of the eggplant timing will vary. Just check that the slices are not getting dry and take them out once they are soft and cooked. If they are getting dry but not cooked, cover the bake tray with a aluminum foil and then bake.

Sometimes I might brown them further on a greased fry pan on the stove after they are done but mostly that is not necessary for this variety of eggplant


Now that we have the begun bhaja out of the picture and you saw the simple psychology that made me happier to bake them as opposed to frying them, I will introduce you to Scott Haas, food writer and psychologist. Yes, a deadly combination.

In his newest book, Scott explores what goes on inside a chef's mind in the back of a professional kitchen. Intriguing, haan ? Wait and hear the rest. In the book, "Back of the House-- Secret Life of a restaurant" Haas looks at famed Boston restaurant Craigie on Main, where chef Tony Maws basically gave him free reign to observe for the past year and a half. If you want to know what inspires a chef, if you want a peek into the racing drama in a restaurant kitchen and want the drama to unfold like a novel, this book is for you.

Now available on Amazon

I have my own copy which I am not going to share  but I would be very happy to send a copy of this book to one of the commenters in this post.. Winner will picked by random.org and book will be shipped in US only.

42 comments:

  1. I was desperately searching for this recipe, every time I try to bake begun bhaja they get scorched. So happy to finally have the correct oven temperature.Thanks

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    1. Try it sreya. I have so far only used the japanese eggplant for the oven version. Hopefully the larger one will work well in oven too

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  2. Ekdom bojha jacche na they are made in the oven! Perfect ... to the buttery insides. :-)

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    1. Hyaan amio surprised :) pleasantly surprised.

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  3. A friend of mine used to bring this to work. I never knew it was a Bengali dish. I have tried making it earlier but now I will bake it. Thanks

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    1. You can fry it too Shella but the oven one works well for us too.

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  4. I love Begun Bhaja. Such a bengali delicacy fo me.And I always roast them in the oven :) Love it.

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    1. See, a lot of you do it in the oven. good that I learned

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  5. Hi Sandeepa,

    I just love begun bhaja..but yes the amount of oil makes me think twice. I am generally scared of the oven as i have not used it extensively but will definitely try this one.

    I had one question though. I used to think the begun bhaja tasted best in mustard oil and that is how i always cooked it. Does this one taste similar or instead of olive oil can mustard oil work?

    Regards,
    B

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    1. Ekdum khaanti kotha. Update korechi. Ami Olive oil i use korechi kintu shorsher tel thakte, why not ?

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  6. I don't eat begun bhaja very often. BUT if I eat it, I try to eat it the real way...my husband calls me Food nazzi or "bossy' may be. I think I'll lose the fun of life if I start to think too hard and modify everything I am familiar with. The begun bhaja looks perfect though. I'll try it sometimes (but definitely with mustard oil, can't compromise that).

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    1. yeah, real way always best. But I love simplifications if any :)

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  7. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. Baking is any day better than frying particularly if the end result will be close to the fried one. Will give this a go...

    Thanks

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    1. Not for puritans but as I said give me a recipe that is quick on a weeknight and save me some calories, i am all for it

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  8. I like the idea of oven baked - healthy version.

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  9. Hi, oma baked begum bhaja...Eto dekchi ekdom baked KFC-r copy cat…hehe…so qnique…have not have the begun bhaja for the oil amount, will sure give it a try! Thx so much for sharing…:)

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    1. baked KFC o ache naki ? seita abar kothai ?

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  10. Those aubergine slices look so good.

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    1. Thanks Fin. So glad to see you back

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  11. As it so happens, one lonely chinese eggplant is languishing in my fridge. Could not figure out what to do with it. Oven baked begun bhaja it is, for dinner tonight!

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    1. I did! And it turned out pretty good :) My husband and I enjoyed it with cholar dal. The kids are not willing to try anything with begun! My email is goldthread@gmail.com

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  12. bah e to ekebare bhaji begun, na chhuin tel.. well.. almost no tel. I will give it a try :-)

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    1. no tel noy :( no tel hole ar keu khabe na

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    2. oi holo... dubo tel ey bhajar theke to shoto gun ey bhalo. jaha bahanno tahai tippano jodi hote pare, taholey 2 tsp Olive oil-o almost nothing compared to sorsher tel ey dubiye ba chubiye bhaja :-) aami aj raat ei try korbo
      amar email ID mausumiray@yahoo.com jodi biral er bhagye shike chhere ei bhebe diye rakhlam :-)

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  13. Well you are the bossy one if she says so!
    The oven fried one does turn out fine but I secretly prefer the stovetop one. Health versus taste I suppose!
    And one more book to buy.......

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    1. I forgot to ask people to leave their e-mail id here. ooops

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  14. Had a hearty laugh reading LS's definition of bossy.

    Think about it - doesn't our boss at work do the same? We end up doing his work so that he can surf the net :-). LS is so wise to nail the concept at such a young age!

    Love the baked begun concept - anything tasty with less oil is always welcome.

    -- Rehana

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    1. :-) Hey, if you are in the US can you leave your e-mail id in the case you win the book ?

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    2. reh_khan@hotmail.com

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  15. Loved the idea of baked Begun Bhaja, am going to try this one soon! Btw, LS is one smart child, I must say :P

    -Suchismita

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    1. ha, ha, don't know smart but I guess all kids have a more straight view of life which hits the nail right on the head.
      E-mail please for goveaway

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  16. Love the idea of baking them....and everyone here except the lil'one enjoys baingan, will def. try this.

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    1. My kids don't either. can you leave your e-mail id please

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  17. How CAN you boss over a little girl like that! Shame on you! I love begun bhaja!

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  19. The best definition of Bossy, ever :) I enjoyed reading Scott's book.

    Best,
    SD from SF

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  20. The book sounds interesting! Will definitely look for it.

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  21. I tried it yesterday. It was wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. Loved the definition of 'Bossy' . Only children can do this to you!! Will try this out for sure. I love your blog.... have bought your book on Amazon and am waiting for it to arrive.

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