Two Delicious Eggplant Recipes – Khatte Meethe Baingan And Baingan Palak Sowa Ki Sabzi

Aubergine/eggplant/brinjal/melanzane/berenjenas, the humble baingan has many names and they come in all shapes and sizes. The colours mostly vary from deep purple, black, cream, light green, bright magenta or even stripes of white and purple. Did you know eggplant is basically a fruit, a variety of nightshade like tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes? Fruit or vegetable, it is one of my favorites. Full of nutrition, eggplants are low in calories and are rich source of antioxidants, folate, vitamins and minerals, They are high on fiber and low on fat. Most of all they are delicious and can be cooked in many ways. It is not the boring veggie you believe it to be.

When buying eggplants look for vivid color, Choose the ones which are light in weight and free of any bruises, scars or discolouration. They should be firm with their calyx cap still green. This ensures that the eggplant is fresh and ripe. Test the ripeness by pressing the skin of the vegetable with your thumb pad, if it springs back the eggplant is ripe. Once cut, place them in a bowl of salt water to remove bitterness. Throw away the water.

There are so many delicious dishes you can make with eggplants. You can grill them with herbs, bake with cheese, roast and mash to make baba ghaoush, eggplant mash or baingan bharta/chokha, use variety of ingredients,to stuff them or you can make eggplant sauce to top up the pizzas/sandwiches etc. Aubergine dip is one of my favorites and so are these two recipes from my Indian kitchen.

The sweet and sour eggplant or khatte meethe baingan is an explosion of tastes. I love the sweet tangy flavours spiced up with chili and other spices. The tamarind/tomatoes and jaggery give the dish a unique texture and flavor. I love garlic and it pairs beautifully with aubergines.

1. Sweet and Sour Eggplant Vegetable

The khatte meethe baingan have two variations. One is made with Tamarind and jaggery and the one here uses tomatoes instead of tamarind. Chokh Vagun is a traditional Kashmiri baingan recipe that uses tamarind and fennel seeds. This is a variation of the same.

Ingredients :

Baby eggplants – 8-10

Tomatoes – 1/2 cup finely chopped

Ginger – 1/2 inch (grated)

Garlic – 4 cloves (grated)

Red Onions – 2 medium size ( finely chopped)

Corriander Greens – 1/4 cup (finely chopped)

Curry Leaves – 6-8

Fennel seeds – 1/2 teaspoon

Onion Seeds (kalounji) – 1/4 teaspoon

Mustard Seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

Cumin Seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

Jaggery – 2 tablespoon (shredded or granules)

Salt – to taste

Whole Dry Red chili -1

Hing/asafoetida – generous pinch

Red Chili Powder – to taste

Coriander Powder – 2 tablespoon

Garam Masala Powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Mustard Oil – 2 tablespoon (you can use any other oil too)

Method :

Wash and remove the stems of the eggplants.

Slice them lengthwise in 2 inch slices and put them in a bowl of salted water). Discard the water before using the vegetable slices.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan (Kadhayi) and once it begins to smoke lower the flame. Add cumin seeds and mustard seeds. When they start to crackle add dry red chili ,curry leaves and onion.

Stir the onions on low heat till they become translucent. Add ginger and garlic. Stir.

Add salt to help it become brown. When the mixture turns golden brown add red chili powder and a tablespoon of water. Mix well. This will give color to the masala. Cook on low heat for a few minutes then add the other dry masalas. Mix well and let it cook for a minute. Add chopped tomatoes. Mix well.

Cover and let it simmer for a few minutes. When the tomatoes become soft and mushy and the masala is fully absorbed add half a cup of water to it and mix. Let it cook for 5-8 minutes.

At this point stir in the eggplant slices and cover. Let it cook till the eggplant slices become tender. Now add jaggery and mix well. If the tomatoes are not sour ones then add a teaspoon of amchoor or mango powder at this point. You can replace tomatoes with tamarind taste too. I dissolve jaggery in tamarind water and add that instead of tomatoes at times.

Remember that sometimes the vegetables dont soften once the souring agent is added so it is better to let them tenderize before adding any sour thing.

Cover the curry and let cook for a while untill all the spices and other ingredients blend well.

Open the lid and add chopped coriander greens. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes then turn off the heat.

You can make it dry or a little curried per your liking.

Serve it hot with fresh phulka/paratha or steamed rice.

2. Sweet And Sour Eggplant With Winter Greens 

The second delicious vegetable with eggplant today is speciality of Varanasi or Benares as we know it. Aaloo bhanta saag (Thanks Sangeeta Khanna for reminding me this name) is mostly eaten with kachoris there. The preparation is a staple of Uttarpradesh and Bihar and usually prepared during Diwali when the market is brimming with fresh tender winter greens. It is a mushy vegetable made with baby potatoes, spinach, fresh dill greens and masala badi (A condiment- a dehydrated lentil cake).  My version doesn’t have potatoes. The spinach and wispy fern like dill greens (sowa) give it a unique flavour.

Dill leaves / shepoo/ sowa has a strong but pleasant anise-like flavour. Usually it is used in combination with spinach. I use it for making pakodas (dumplings) and for aloo sowa veggie too. Both the green have a high nutrient content. The dill springs have many essential volatile oils which are good for health. It also has vitamin A,C, B6, manganese, folate, copper, calcium and iron. Spinach on the other hand is full of phytonutrients. omega3 fatty acids among other things.

To make this wonderful veggie you will need

Ingredients :

A medium size round eggplant

Spinach leaves – 250 gm

sowa or fresh dill greens 100 gms

ginger – 1 tablespoon grated

garlic – 3 cloves finely chopped

onion – 1 roughly chopped

Dry red chili whole -1

cumin seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp

fennel seeds – 1/4 tsp

Generous pinch of hing or asafoetida

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Salt – to taste

Mustard oil – 1-2 tablespoon

Method –

Wash, clean and chop the spinach and dill greens. Keep aside.

Wash and cut the eggplant in small cubes. Put them in salted water.

Heat a tablespoon of mustard oil in a kadhai or cast iron wok. Once the oil begins to smoke lower the heat and add, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and whole red chili. When the seeds begin to crackle add onion, garlic and ginger. Stir well.

Add chopped onions and just when they turn translucent add the chopped brinjals Add salt , turmeric powder and cover. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat then open the lid and add the greens. Stir well.

Dry roast fennel seed and onion seeds slightly and crush them in a mortar. Add this now.

Let it cook covered for a few minutes so the spices get absorbed in the vegetables (around 20 min) and then give it a stir after removing the lid.

You can make this wonderful veggie dry or coated with masala. I have not added the badi in this version but if you do then crush the badi (I use the amritsari urad dal badi) and in a little oil turn in over with crushed garlic till it browns. Add this to the vegetable and let the flavours seep in.

Serve it hot with Jowar bhakri/ roti/ poori or kachori. Winter greens taste best with flatbreads (roti/bhakri) made with sorghum, pearl millet and Indian corn flour. These are best for people following paleo or gluten-free diet and taste wonderful too.

If you make any of these, do let me know how they turned out. Any suggestions are welcome.



Memorable Kaafiya – The Poetry Festival And The Launch Of ‘Kaafiyana’

“Hey, where is the birthday party happening?”, a friend asked me a few days back.
“At the amphitheater of IHC. I hope you are coming.” I replied.
She looked confused. “IHC? Isn’t  Kaafiya – The Poetry Festival happening there? Anything special about this festival?”
“Yes, it is not just another poetry festival. It is an effort to bring the poetry enthusiasts from across the city together, going beyond the boundaries. An effort to take poetry, music and dance to a different level. ‘Kaafiya’ means ‘rhyme’ and the purpose of the festival is to bring the poets/artists together. You know, “mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara‘? Unity and harmony through different art forms.That’s Kaafiya for you.There will also be the much awaited launch of ‘Kaafiyana’, the bilingual poetry anthology. My Hindi poem is part of the collection. Do read. What better way to celebrate one’s birthday than by celebrating poetry. For a poet it is a dream come true. No?” I smiled.
“Wow! yes, of course. Sounds good. Congrats and best wishes. I will try to come.”She said.

I turned forty eight this year and celebrations for me have always had different meaning. Doing what you love most is the best  way to celebrate life. This was where i wanted to be.

I wasn’t able to attend the first day of the festival for health reasons but the two-day fest began on 10th of October with a bang. Day 1 saw a series of discussions with eminent personalities that included Shri Ashok Chakradhar, Peggy Mohan, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Nishad Zaidi, Prof Abdul Bismillah, Janab Sohail Hashmi (Delhi heritage Walks) to name a few.

Day one also saw some exquisite poetry reading by young emerging poets. The high point of the first day was a mesmerizing dance performance by guru Rashmi Khanna called ‘Timeless Lore of Love‘. The poetry recitation by Saumya Kulshreshtha and Rashmi’s spellbinding performance based on that held the audience captive. From what I heard this was one of those rare choreographed performances that will be etched in the minds of poetry lovers for a very long time. I regretted missing Day 1 of the festival even more after attending day two.
The reason I decided to write about Kaafiya is very personal. I support their cause. Unlike many of the other poetry events I felt an instant connect with the spirit with which the whole event was organized.

The beautiful amphitheater at IHC was radiating with the warmth, the love, and the hard work that team Kaafiya and its supporting partners Readomania and others had put in. There was a sense of harmony and belonging that immediately made you feel connected to everyone present there, known or unknown. It takes a lot of effort to win hearts and mentally stimulate the minds and thoughts of people and this poetry festival totally rocked at it. Everyone connected to Kaafiya , the main organizers, the volunteers, the participants, the partners, worked relentlessly to make this maiden event a huge success. The runup to Kaafiya began in August with events spread across the city, open mic, slam poetry sessions, creative workshops, lectures etc in collages with the help of their ‘poetry ambassadors’ and in private gatherings all across the capital, one of a kind heritage poetry walks were organized with youth for heritage foundation, and poetry events like Rhyming with Poet’s Collective celebrated the rich heritage of poetry all through these three months. Every Tuesday #KaafiyaMilaao trended at number 1 on twitter as poetry enthusiasts shared their short verses in both English and Hindi on this social network.The tradition still continues. Do join in folks.

So you can imagine that the overall festival was not just for these two days at IHC but was spread over last few months. Kaafiya fest at IHC was culmination of all these super events organized so wonderfully by Yaseen Anwer and other members of organizing team Dipankar Mukherjee, Saumya Kulshreshtha and Vikramjit Singh Rooprai. I think the most remarkable thing about this fest was celebrating poetry in both English and Hindustani. There is an urgent need to bring Hindi poetry to mainstream and I was thrilled to listen to some fantastic poems by the young poets. Kaafiya, in my opinion, is doing a great job in encouraging these young poets to come out and showcase their talent . To give them a platform is something amazing. It instills faith and courage in them.
I missed the first session of Day two but reached in time for the next. The eminent personalities that graced the second day included Sumant Batra (Kumaun Literary festival), Aditi Maheshwari, Raj Liberhan, Keki. N.Daruwala, Rana Safvi, Darain Shahidi (Dansangoi), Lubna Irfan, Vikarmjit Singh Rooprai to name a few. The topics for discussions were carefully chosen keeping in mind the relevance and importance of subject matter. The idea was to engage the audience in most fruitful way possible.
I loved ‘Dastaan-e-dilli’ , I had heard a lot about Vikarmjit Rooprai and was curious about his work. This section of Kaafiya was simply out of the world. To know the city of Delhi through poetry was a new experience for me.  I hope the videos will be uploaded soon for everyone to watch and listen.
‘Aawaaz-e-dilli’ was something I will remember for life. What an amazing blend of poetry. Shiva Singh, Tauseef Ahmed, Azhar Nawaz, Mudita Rastogi , all of you won my heart. Simply superb. Those you attended the festival will agree with me on this. The audience was jubilant and cheered the poets on every sher, every nazm, very verse. Thank you poets for sharing your treasure of words with us. I am sure you inspired many among us.

Another high point of day two of Kaafiya was the poetry recitation session by actor, poet, painter and photographer, the gorgeous and talented Deepti Naval. I know I am going a little overboard with this but I always loved her work. Her recent poems are excellent. Though “dark” in her words they touch you somewhere deep. At least they resonated with me deeply. The conversation between Yaseen and Deepti was delightful and she was so gracious in answering all our questions.
By now the crowd was euphoric. One could see the energy that flowed in the audience. It was electrical.

I will try and share the video of kaafiya anthem ‘Delhi ke dil ka arman’ . You must listen to the fine lyrics by Aseem Abaasi.
Adil Sami held us captive with his musical poetry. A very interesting blend of two.

The book launch of our Kaafiyana was unique and one of a kind. It was done through a magical Odissi dance performed by Adrija Sarkar. Unforgettable is the word that comes to mind when I think of it.

Kaafiyana is a collection of bilingual poetry (Hindi &English). It features poems by the ninety poets who were selected through Delhi Poetry Challenge organized by Readomania and Kaafiya.
I really loved the way team kaafiya kept calling young talents to the stage to recite their poems between the main events. Many poets got a chance to showcase their work and were encouraged and appreciated by the audience. A few poet contributors from Kaafiyana also read their poems.
By now the evening shadows had settled around the amphitheater and the air had become a bit cooler. The audience had no wish to leave. Intoxicated by the charms of poetry, music and dance they wanted more.
Girish Sharma (Bandey) set the stage on fire with some great music. You had to be there to believe the kind of impact his presence had on the audience. They cheered, sang with him, urged him to sing their favorite songs, it was sheer euphoria taking over. His song Lappujhania (you can find it on You Tube) made the crowd ecstatic and rightfully so. The guy is a terrific performer. This musical poetic soiree was cherry on the top.
It is always a pleasure to meet old and new friends during such events but these two days of Kaafiya will be memorable for many reasons. You can check out the FB page, Twitter handle, and the website of Kaafiya for more information about the stupendous work they are doing in making Delhi the youth driven poetry capital of India. Also, don’t forget to visit Readomania website to get updated on the events like Readomania #TalkFest to be held in the first week of every alternate month starting from November at India Habitat Centre.
Lastly , I want to congratulate all the poets who contributed to Kaafiyana. It is a pleasure to be part of the group. Thank you Kaafiya for this wonderful opportunity to share my work and for bringing poetry to us in such a unique way. I wish all of you tremendous success in future events. A big thank you to the volunteers, hosts and hostesses who made the show so magical. Well done.

The people who made it possible.

Friends, do get involved with Kaafiya movement in every possible way if you are in Delhi/NCR.
Readomania, thank you for ‘Kaafiyana’. Looking forward to more such milestones.It is a great feeling to find it at number 1 place on Amazon.

All those reading this can buy your copy HERE. Visit the Goodreads page for Kaafiyana and leave your views.

This is my author’s copy 😀

Here is a slide show of some beautiful memories from the two-day Kaafia Poetry Festival. A few pix are sourced from Kaafiya FB page and the copyright belongs to the rightful owners. Sunny Lakharwal, thank you for permitting me to use your photographs in the slide show.

Thank you for sharing the joy.

Kaafiya ka Kaafila badhta rahe” as Yaseen says.

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More Poetry News

I have not been too well lately. Seasonal viral fever and flu broke my body completely. I am desperately waiting for my eyes review too. They seem to feel tired most of the time. It’s been almost ten months to the surgery and before the fever took over I was sure that at least the eyes were not giving any reason to panic. Looks like I spoke too soon. 😦

The throat is still making those ancient sounds no one can decipher.

Overall, life is as usual. Between the notes of grief and loneliness a night awaits its morning.

September ended with more news from the poetry world.

One more of my poems got published in the Learning and Creativity Magazine.

Here is an excerpt

Sometimes I hear you… soft  whispers
riffled by the warm summer breeze,
your smile lights a dew-drop,
I catch your scent from the fragrant trees.

You can read the complete poem here –  Reminiscence

And then, the results of the Delhi Poetry Challenge were announced a few days ago. One of my Hindi poems is shortlisted to be included in the anthology called Kaafiyana. The book will be released during Kaafiya poetry festival at India Habitat Center in Delhi on Oct 10-11 in association with Readomania. You can check out the details from their FB and twitter accounts.

I am deeply grateful to the editors for appreciating my work.

While we are talking poetry, here is a very short poem I wrote a few months ago.

There was no graceful exit,
no tear filled fights,
no notes in livid ink
left to be seen later,
no arguments, co closure.
Unspoken, the words
hung motionless in the air,
stunned, ice-bound