Recipe: Baigan Choka, or Roasted Eggplant
Eggplant, commonly known in the Caribbean region as “baigan” is a staple vegetable featured in many Trinbagonian dishes. Baigan Choka is a traditional dish passed on by the East Indian indentured labourers. The vegetable was readily available and could be easily cultivated owing to the ideal tropical climate which provided excellent weather conditions.
Eggplants possess a multitude of health benefits. It is naturally low in calories but still provides a considerable amount of energy. It is also packed with nutrients and minerals essential for promoting good health. Some studies have even shown that it is linked to the prevention of cancer and lowering of cholesterol.
This recipe is quick and easy and can be made ahead of serving time. It can be served warm, at room temperature or even chilled. Traditionally, it is served with sada roti, but can also be featured as a main dish for vegetarians, or served as a side dish with breads, rice, quinoa, pasta and other starches. It can even be a tasty and unique dip served alongside chips.
1 Large Eggplant
2 Cloves Garlic
½ Small Onion cut into thin slices
1 Table Spoon Oil (of your choice)
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ Scotch Bonnet Pepper, finely chopped (Optional)
· Wash and dry eggplant.
· Make two deep slits and insert one garlic clove in each.
· Place eggplant into pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until juices run naturally.
· Cut into smaller pieces and loosely wrap with aluminum foil.
· Place the pieces directly onto lighted stove top burners on medium heat.
· Cook for approximately 25 minutes, monitoring constantly.
· Carefully remove from aluminum foil and return to stove top.
· Reduce heat to low and allow the skin to acquire a lightly charred texture, turning the pieces when necessary.
· Remove heat and place in a bowl.
· Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the eggplant cools. The natural heat will create steam, which makes it easy to remove the skin.
· Remove skin and mash with a fork to break up the meat of the eggplant, forming a paste with a smooth texture. The garlic inside the eggplant will be thoroughly steamed at this point and easy to mash into the paste.
· Add onion slices, chopped pepper, salt, black pepper and oil.
· Mix ingredients until they are well combined and serve as desired.
This recipe generates two full servings.
Those who prefer a more mild flavour may omit the fresh and/or ground pepper.
Feel free to experiment with different oils for this recipe, but do keep in mind that oils with a more prominent taste (such as peanut or sesame seed) will influence the flavour profile of this dish. For this reason, I recommend that you stick to mildly flavoured oils such as vegetable, coconut or canola oil.
Be sure to mash the eggplant very well before serving. To aid in this process, feel free to employ the assistance of your food processor or blender to create a finer texture.