Eggplants cooked in Indian spices, Indian firm Cottage cheese, and tomatoes. This is such a unique recipe I created with my mother and her neighbor’s suggestion. I just couldn’t believe how delicious the Paneer and Eggplant combination can taste.
What’s the story behind this recipe?
If you have been following me for a while, you probably know that my parents live in India. I have a routine every morning before I start preparing for breakfast. I call my Mother and Father every day. A couple of months ago I called home and our neighbor “Rashmi Kaki” in India was visiting my mother. It was their night and it is very common in India to visit your neighbors whenever you feel like lol. I asked Rashmi Kaki what she had for dinner and our conversation went deep about food and ingredients. I don’t know about all the Indians but my entire family has this habit of asking each other what they had for lunch or dinner lol. I do that too. I think it’s a great gesture to get some cooking ideas, help others if they need food, or just for the sake of kindness. I know our tradition might sound kind of weird to Americans but we love it. My husband was pretty annoyed how random neighbors would show up at the door when he visited me in India lol. I love the neighbors visiting, dropping off food, checking on each other, and making sure we are doing well. It’s the cultural stuff, ya know!
Anyway, Rashmi Kaki asked what’s my plan for lunch? I told her I had small eggplants and paneer sitting in the fridge. I asked if she has any suggestions for me. She said, Safiya, why don’t you make Ravaiya(Gujarati Indian eggplant Masala) and Shredd Paneer on top. That sounded phenomenal.
That day I went ahead and did the eggplant like my mother did and added shredded Paneer on top. The taste was beyond my expectations. So that’s how this recipe came into development. I must have made it every other week to perfect the recipe since then.
What is Paneer and where to get it?
Paneer is a firm Indian cottage cheese made from milk. It has a very mild subtle taste to it. Paneer is a large part of the vegetarian diet in India as a source of protein. You can easily find Paneer in any Indian Grocery store in the State.
Where can I buy small green or purple eggplants? Can I substitute if I can’t find them?
Small green eggplants and purple eggplants are also easily found in Indian grocery stores. Some of the Indian stores have certain days when they receive all their fresh produce. I would suggest calling your local Indian store and ask them about its availability. Fresh ones taste phenomenal. Green eggplants are basically young eggplants before they are ripe. They are very tender and flavorful. Purple eggplants are my personal preference. Purple eggplants have a sweeter taste and are faster to cook. If you can’t find them, you can definitely go for Japanese long eggplants or large eggplants.
Tip to pick a good large eggplant from a regular grocery store.
Pick the smallest with thinner and firm skin. Those ones are less likely to have tons of seeds in them. I would recommend peeling the skin and cutting it into small pieces If you choose to use large eggplants for this recipe. Instead of stuffing them with spices, you can brown them in oil first then add spices and saute for a minute or two. Then follow the other recipe steps.
This recipe can be prepared in an InstantPot. It will cut down the cooking time by half.
Instantpot cooking Instructions
- Heat oil in an Instantpot on a medium saute setting. Add eggplants and cook for about 1 minute to brown the skin. Add 2 tbsp water and Shredded tomatoes. Cancel the saute setting. Close the lid and pressure cook on low for 8 minutes.
- Release the pressure and add shredded paneer to it and cook until thick. Garnish with cilantro.
Paneer Baigan Masala
- 8 to 10 baby eggplants, preferably small green or purple eggplants
- 4 ripe medium Roma Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Paneer( Indian Cottage Cheese)
- 1 tbsp Almond flour or crushed roasted peanuts
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 to 3 tbsp Oil
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tbsp for a milder taste
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder, 1/2 tsp for a milder taste
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- Salt to taste
- In a medium bowl, combine ginger-garlic, almond flour, chili powder, cumin-coriander powder, turmeric, a tablespoon of oil, and salt. Set it aside.
- Shred the tomatoes with a cheese shredder. Set it aside.
- Wash the eggplants thoroughly under running water and pat dry them. Create one horizontal and one vertical slit 3/4 way from the bottom of the eggplants. The crown should remain attached.
- Fill in the spice mixtures by hand or with the help of a butter knife in the eggplants. Do not over-fill the spices.
- Heat 2tbsp oil in a large pot on a medium saute setting. Add eggplants and cook for about 1 minute to brown the skin. Add 2 tbsp water and Shredded tomatoes. Cover the lid and cook for 20 minutes on medium or until the eggplants are soft.
- Add shredded Paneer and mix it gently with the help of a silicone spatula. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until gravy is thick.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve it hot with Indian Roti, Paratha, plain rice or eat it as is.
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