Saturday, August 30, 2014

Aubergine Fritters




The aubergine is known by many names, some quite unflattering.
English speakers on either side of the planet call it by different names. It is called 'eggplant' because of its comparison to the egg of a swan or that of a goose. And, of course, the more widely used name, 'aubergine,' which lends it some elegance.

John Gerard, in the sixteenth century, described this vegetable as having, "the bignesse of a swans egge," which probably gave the name to the entire species, even though the large round purple ones, small egg shaped purple ones, and the long slender green/purple ones, outnumber the small egg shaped white ones that do resemble eggs. English speakers in India refer to it as 'brinjal.'

When it wasn't being compared to a goose's egg, it was referred to as 'melanzana,' a name which perhaps it still carries in Italy, derived from the Latin 'mala insana,' which means 'apple of insanity.' Blame it on the family! Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family of which poisonous Jimson/Datura, as well as Belladonna are members - sometimes called Deadly Nightshade.

In India, it is called baingan in many regions. My father-in-law wasn't a big fan of the baingan and playing on the word, christened it 'be-gun,'  (pro: bay-gun, the 'u' as the 'u' in Gunther) which means 'without good qualities' or in other words, a useless vegetable. It has many names in differnt regions in India, of which I know only one apart from baingan - Bintak in Rajasthan. But interestingly, what it lacks in popular perception, it more than makes up for with its history.

The eggplant has meandered through many countries and languages. From the Sanskrit name - Vatinganah, which the Persians turned into badingan, to the Arabic, al-badinjan, the eggplant travelled with the Arabs to Spain, where its Arabic name was mispronounced and it was called berengena! (Information of eggplant compiled from the internet)


It's aubergine fritters today, or in its Indian avatar: Baingan ka Pakora! If I had to ask my FIL his last word on these 'fritters,' I'm sure he would say: "Aubergine fritters bolo ya Baingan ka Pakora, ghoom phir ke yeh hai toh wahi - Be-gun!!" (Trans: Call it Aubergine fritters or Baingan ka pakora, the bottom line is: it remains the same old Be-gun!!)

I hope you like this vegetable in some form. I do like it and have done some wonderful things with it. It brings variety and a unique flavour to my table. This is simple, easy and a great snack.


Ingredients

Aubergines/brinjal...............................I used 2, cut into wedges. I got 19-20 wedges in all
Gram flour..........................................1 n 1/2 cup or acc to need
Corn starch........................................2 tbsps
Red chilli pwdr...................................acc to taste
Turmeric............................................2 pinches
Asafoetida (hing)................................1 pinch, powdered fine
Ajwain (carom seeds)..........................2 small pinches
Aamchur (dry mango pwdr).................1/2 tsp or acc to amt of besan used
Baking pwdr.......................................1/2 tsp for my requirement, alter acc to yours
Salt to taste
Oil


Wash the brinjals. chop off the tops of the stems, retaining a stub. Pare down the thick, fleshy stem cap on top of the vegetable. Cut into wedges of desired size. Sprinkle a little salt, red chilli pwdr and a teeny bit of turmeric on the wedges. Rub it in properly. Cover and leave to marinate while you prepare the batter.

Sift the besan and baking pwdr into a bowl.
Add red chilli, ajwain, asafoetida, aamchur, salt (remember you have used salt in the marinade too) and using a little water at a time beat it into a nice fluffy batter. Not too thick, you don't want a thick coating on the fritters, but not too thin and runny either. If you don't get it right the first time, no problems, adjust the consistency by adding more flour or water, as the case might be, and other spices as required.
Heat oil in a deep nonstick pan. Test with a blob of batter. If it rises to the top immediately its ready.
Dip each wedge into the batter, hold the stub on top and drain out excess batter into the bowl and quickly but gently, put it into the oil, before all the batter falls off! Follow with the others.
Fry to a golden brown, turning them over frequently to get an even browning.
Serve hot with a nice yogurt dip, ketchup, green chutney, or tamarind chutney.

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