xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Ria's Baigan (and Tomato) Choka

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ria's Baigan (and Tomato) Choka


Since I last posted I have traveled on business, arranged a beach “lime” with my wonderful cousins (with fried bake & shark, saltfish & tomatoes and fry bodi for breakfast and curried duck, dhal and rice for lunch), partied and “worked” at my sister’s baby shower and had my first overnight camping experience. All very exciting experiences, in their own way, especially since food was involved…in abundance. I would have liked to report that I lost more weight…but I can’t…because it’s impossible to exercise moderation under these circumstances. It’s also impossible to exercise. Period. [Thinking about the tremendous effort my husband exuded this morning to pull up the zipper on my pencil skirt…sigh]…..

I could provide details of all the events, but I will spare you. All I suggest is that you shouldn’t “assume” when you go camping. You shouldn’t assume your husband packed pillows, a sheet and blankets and he shouldn’t assume that you did it….because chances are you will freeze your “assuming selves” off if it happens to be a cold, cold, rainy night……..We all shared one blanket and two pillows my most organized nine year old packed for both she and her sister. Aside from that major hiccup, it was a wonderful experience. We met an amazing Trini couple whose hospitality and kindness we will never forget.

What I will share in detail is the recipe for “baigan and tomato choka”, a variation of which we made for breakfast on the camping trip. [It had more tomatoes than eggplant.] I served it along with sliced avocados, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, and roti which I made with pizza dough we picked up on our way to the campsite. Not bad for my first camping breakfast, eh?

Baigan choka is to Trinidad and Tobago what baba ghanoush is to the Middle East and the rest of the world. It’s one of my favorite vegetarian breakfast dishes. In Trinidad, and probably some of the other Caribbean islands, we refer to eggplant as "baigan", so if I use it interchangeably I do so unconsciously. The term “choka” infers the method of preparation. In a few "chokas" the vegetables are roasted or boiled (e.g. aloo-potato-choka) and mashed with aromatics including onion and garlic. In a sardine or zaboca(also known as avocado) choka there is no roasting involved.

 

In this choka, the eggplant is first roasted over an open flame on a grill or stove top. Alternatively, it can also be roasted in the oven, which I attempted once but realized it did not impart the same smoky flavor or consistency I am so accustomed to. It could have been the age of the eggplant or some other factor(like it takes too long), but I have hesitated to give the oven a second chance. I sacrifice my clean stove during the cold winter months, however, the eggplant goes straight on the grill when the weather is nicer--like now. It's a great summertime dish. An eggplant or two always finds it way on the grill when we are bbq-ing meats, the roasted eggplant stays well in the refrigerator or freezer until it's ready to be used.

 

Once the skin is completely charred and the eggplant has collapsed indicating that the insides are fully cooked and tender, the creamy and smoky flesh of the eggplant is carefully scooped out and mashed with garlic and onion. Oil is then heated and poured over the eggplant, a method referred to as “chunkaying”. A term inherited from our Indian ancestors.

Baigan choka is traditionally eaten with roti, including sada (plain) roti or paratha roti (buss up shot). I always roast two eggplants because this is one dish every one in my household loves!


Choose young, ripe eggplants that are bright in color, firm to the touch and heavy, with no dents, scars and/or brown rust spots. To test for ripeness, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb, if it springs back it’s ripe, if an indentation remains it’s not. The stem at the top of the eggplant, the calyx, should be fresh and bright green, not brown or dried.

[make the right choices...or else...you may end up with this...]

To kick this dish up a notch, roasted tomatoes can also be added, but remember to also remove the charred skin from the tomatoes before mashing along with the eggplant.                     
                                                                                                                                         
 


Ria's Baigan (and Tomato) Choka
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 globe eggplants (baigan) (about 2 pounds)
4 large cloves garlic, each cut lengthwise in half
1 small onion, thinly sliced or finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil**
2 ripe tomatoes (medium), (optional)
Hot pepper, to taste (habanero, cherry, scotch bonnet or congo pepper)
Salt to taste

**Use 3 tablespoons oil if using tomatoes
Directions

Slice each garlic clove lengthwise in half. Slash each eggplant in 4 places and insert garlic.


Grill eggplant until skin is completely charred and collapsed, about 20 minutes.  


Transfer to a paper-lined counter or cutting board.

Slice the top off and cut eggplant in half lengthwise-without cutting the skin at the bottom.


Scoop out flesh with a fork and place in a bowl.



Slice onion very thinly or finely chop, depending on your preference. Add to eggplant. Mash with a fork, (or mortar and pestle, or wooden pestle), breaking up chunks, making sure to also crush the roasted garlic. [Add hot pepper here, if using..hot pepper can also be roasted for added flavor). Add salt to taste.

In a small frying pan or pot, add oil and heat. When very very hot but not smoking, pour all over eggplant and mix well in a whisking/mashing motion with a fork until it reaches a fluffy consistency.


Serve immediately with roti, fried bake, bread, pita bread......or pizza dough "roti"....


...and a few pics from our first camping experience...
....fifty shades of blue...and some green...




I am sure you know who these belong to....

Hope you are enjoying your summer....Please write if you have any questions...

Thanks for stopping by,
Talk to you soon,
Ria

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