For this month's International Food Challenge, we are visiting Afghanistan. Big Thanks to Saraswathi for giving me the opportunity to host this month's event. Researching for recipes and sharing with the group was quite a fun experience.
Afghani cuisine has many similarities to Indian cuisine especially in the variety of spices that they use in their dishes. Afghanistan is located on the historically important trade route called the Silk route/ Silk Road which meant Afghani cuisine is influenced by the trading communities on that route. Afghani cuisine has the influences of Iran, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China.
I picked 5 dishes for the group to try this month and I was tempted to make all of them. But as luck has it, I was only able to make 2, Sheer Payra and today's dish. I definitely want to try the Afghani Bolani, which is a flatbread that is stuffed with vegetables and the rich and delicious Kabuli Palau some time.
My love for eggplants won't let me miss any of the eggplant dishes from any part of the world. So when I saw this dish, Afghan Borani Bhanjan, I was totally sold and knew this was going to be my entry for this month's challenge.
This is a layered eggplant dish that is topped off with a creamy garlic yogurt sauce. Eggplants are grilled or broiled until tender and then layered with fresh tomato slices and doused with tomato sauce, then baked till hot and bubbly. Just before serving a creamy garlic yogurt sauce is poured on top. I made it in individual baking dishes but it can made in a big baking pan too. It is one eggplant that is definitely going to please the eggplant lovers and not-so-big-on-eggplant people (like my husband) too :-)
Chinese eggplants - 4 medium or 2 medium Italian eggplants, cut into ⅓" slices
Tomatoes - 3 medium, cut into ⅓" thick slices
Garlic - 4 cloves, finely minced
Turmeric - ½tsp
Curry powder - 1tsp
Paprika/ Red Chili powder - 1tsp (adjust as per taste)
Tomato paste - 3tbsp
Vegetable broth - 1½cups
Cilantro - 1cup, finely chopped
Dried Mint - for garnish
Salt & Pepper - to taste
For Garlic Yogurt:
Greek yogurt - 1cup
Garlic - 1 clove, finely minced
Salt & Pepper - to taste
- Set the oven to broil. Arrange the eggplant slices on 2 baking sheets, drizzle with 1tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Broil for 2~4 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip and repeat for another 1~2 minutes. Set aside.
- Turn the oven down to 375°F.
- Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and saute till lightly browned and fragrant. Make sure to not burn the garlic.
- Add tomato paste, turmeric, curry powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for 1~2 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil on high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Pour ⅓ of the tomato sauce in a 9"x13" baking pan or into individual baking dishes and spread it across the bottom.
- Arrange half the eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Sprinkle half of the cilantro over the eggplants and then layer half of the tomato slices evenly over the eggplant. Pour on the other ⅓ of the sauce. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, cilantro and tomato slices. Finish the dish by drizzling the last ⅓ of the sauce making sure to cover all the veggies.
- Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes.
- To make the garlic yogurt: mix minced garlic in the yogurt, season with salt & pepper.
- Pour the garlic yogurt over the baked eggplant and sprinkle with lot of dried mint. Serve with pita or naan bread.