TL;DR: Sautéed stuffed baby eggplants with vegan ground “meat”, nuts and spices.
Some vegetables taste great raw, like bell peppers or cherry tomatoes. I didn’t grow up loving raw veggies but I’ve learned to accept and even enjoy some of them (do avocados count? Don’t answer that). But some vegetables are meant to be cooked, roasted, and generally blasted to oblivion. I’m looking at you eggplant. I’m sure in some corner of the planet there are well-meaning folks who actually like the taste of raw eggplant. But to me, very few things react as favorably and dramatically to heat as eggplants. Roasting or sautéing them unlocks incredible amounts of earthiness and sweetness, and the texture transforms from rigid and dense to creamy and luxurious. And cooked eggplant flesh excels at assimilating flavors, making it an ideal dance partner for aromatic and bold Indian spices.
Stuffed baby eggplants, also known as bharwan baingan in India, is a classic dish of spices and nuts rubbed inside sliced eggplants. As is the case with almost any Indian dish, there are tons of regional (and cultural, religious, etc) variations in ingredients and preparation. For my version, I took the elements that I enjoyed from various versions, such as using coconut for flavor and texture and tamarind for tanginess. Also, I used Indian eggplants here, which are fairly small, deep purple in color, and hold their shape pretty well when roasted. For more info on aubergines, brinjals, or whatever else you call them, the Kitchn has a great post explaining the various types of eggplants.
And to boost the protein I found that veggie mince — also referred to as meatless ground crumbles, fake ground beef, etc — worked great. In addition to the protein, it adds a pleasing textural contrast as well, especially when cooked till crispy on the edges. I used Gardein beefless ground in this, but I would imagine other products like Quorn Grounds or Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles would work fine as well. Also, rehydrated TVP (textured vegetable protein) is another viable option. I suppose this makes the recipe closer to a keema bharay baingan (eggplant stuffed with lamb mince) but whatever.
The Process: Make the stuffing, fill up sliced eggplants, cook until tender.
Gather your ingredients. Wash the eggplants.
Roast the peanuts, chana dal, coriander seeds, and red chilies until browned but not burnt. Add coconut for a couple of minutes until lightly toasted. Then dump the spice mix into a bowl or blender and let cool.
Add oil to the same pan and sauté onions with salt and pepper until softened and translucent. Then add garlic, ginger and chiles and sauté for a another couple of minutes.
Add turmeric, cumin, garam masala and tamarind and cook for a minute or so. Then dump everything into the bowl or blender with the spice mix.
While the mix cools, add oil to the same pan and cook the meatless ground crumbles until a bit browned on the edges. When done, set crumbles aside in a bowl (separate from the onion and spice mix).
While the crumbles are cooking, prepare the eggplants. Slice in quarters from the base to the stem. Make sure not to cut them all the way through. You want them to still held together by the top stem area.
By now the onion and spice mix should have cooled, so blend together into a smooth paste.
Time to stuff. First stuff the onion and spice paste inside the baby eggplants. Try to coat the insides of the eggplants really well. Then stuff the vegan ground beef crumbles inside. No need to be too precious with this. This is messy business!
After the baby eggplants are stuffed, heat oil and toast the mustard seeds, fennel seeds, urad dal and curry leaves until the seeds are sputtering.
Place the stuffed baby eggplants in the pan along with any remaining onion and spice paste. Pour in a cup of water. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until eggplants are tender. Turn the eggplants every 5 minutes to make sure they cook on all sides.
These guys are ready to eat! I like having these stuffed baby eggplants with rotis or chapatis (wheat tortillas). If you’re limiting your carbs, try this with cauliflower rice.
Yields 4 servings
These stuffed baby eggplants explode with flavor and texture. Stuff them with aromatic spices, nuts, and veggie protein crumbles and cook on a skillet till tender.
20 minPrep Time
50 minCook Time
1 hr, 10 Total Time
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1/3 cup peanuts
- 1 tbsp chana dal
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 dried red chilies
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut (50g)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 thai chilies, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 inch ginger, minced
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp tamarind
- 1 1/2 cups Gardein Beefless Ground (about half a bag)
- 12 baby eggplants (600g)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp urad dal
- 1 stem curry leaves
- 1 cup water
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Wash the eggplants. On a skillet (I prefer cast iron) on medium heat, dry-roast the peanuts, chana dal, coriander seeds, and dried red chilies until browned but not burnt. You may need to remove the chilies before the other ingredients are roasted as they tend to roast faster. Add shredded coconut and roast for a couple of minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer all of this to a bowl or your blender and let cool.
- In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon oil, onions, and some salt and pepper. Cook until softened and translucent, around 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and thai chilies and cook for another couple of minutes. Next, add the turmeric, cumin powder, garam masala, and tamarind paste and cook for another minute. Dump all of this into the same bowl or blender with the spice mixture from the previous step and let cool.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan and sauté the beefless ground crumbles, stirring occasionally until cooked through and browned on the edges, about 7-10 minutes. Dump into a bowl (separately from the onion and spice mixture).
- Blend the onion and spice mixture into a paste.
- Prep the eggplants by slicing them in quarters from the base to the stem. You don't want to cut all the way through though, so that they remain attached at the stem area.
- Stuff the eggplants by rubbing the onion and spice paste on the inside cut areas. Try to coat the insides of the eggplants as much as possible. Then stuff each eggplant with ground crumbles until there's none left.
- In the same skillet you used earlier, add remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and toast the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, urad dal, and curry leaves until the seeds are sputtering and the urad dal is lightly browned.
- Add the eggplants to the pan, any remaining onion and spice paste, and water.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until eggplants are tender. Turn eggplants every 5 minutes to ensure they get evenly cooked.
- Serve with rotis/chapatis, or whatever else you want to eat them with!
Macros per serving (3 eggplants): 15g protein, 22g fat, 24g carbohydrates (11g fiber); 346 calories