This is a popular and very rich Indian eggplant curry of Hyderabad in India and also in Pakistan. It is normally prepared as a side dish with Hyderabadi biryani. The word 'Baghar' means tempering and 'Baingan' means eggplant. My love for eggplant is strong enough that I make this dish to enjoy over simple plain boiled rice because it is THAT finger-licking good!
The process is somewhat lengthy, but the results are always well-worth the effort and I only make this dish on very special occasions.
First, roast the extra ingredients one at a time. Combine them and grind to a powder. Set this aside.
Wash and slit the eggplants into four sections from the bottom going up but not all the way through to the top. Leave the top stem attached. Take a bowl of water and add 2 tsp. salt. Put the split eggplants in this satly water for about 15 minutes. The salt in the water draws out any bitterness from the eggplants. Once done, rinse thoroughly to remove all excess salt then dry the eggplants properly. Deep fry the eggplants and then drain and set them on kitchen towels to drain off any excess oil.
Now we can begin to make the rich gravy.
Heat 2 tbsp. of oil in a pan. Fry the 2 sliced onions until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool slightly, then put the fried onions in a grinder. Add the bunch of coriander and green chillies. Blend to a smooth paste. Then add the roasted powdered ingredients and blend again to combine. Set aside.
Again, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the chopped curry leaves, ginger/garlic pastes and the dried red chillies. Cook for a few seconds then add the blended onion/spices paste followed by the tomato paste (if you are using it) and stir well. Sprinkle on some salt as well as the turmeric powder and the red chilli powder.
Allow the mixture to cook low and slow, stirring often to prevent the mixture from sticking. Add 1 cup of water and keep cooking the mixture (do not cover it, you need to keep stirring regularly) until it thickens and oil begins to separate from the sides. This should take around 10 minutes. Then add the fried eggplants carefully, along with the sugar, tamarind water or lemon juice. Give it a mix and then simmer on low heat for another 15-20 minutes. Keep checking/stirring occasionally and add a bit more water if needed. Remember to taste and adjust the salt.
Finally sprinkle on the garam masala powder and give it one final stir. Turn off the heat and sprinkle some chopped coriander for garnish. Serve this rich luxurious dish with biryani or plain rice or naan bread.