I live and breathe Gujarati food. Simple vegetarian dishes we’d eat every night when I was young are what have inspired my love of cooking today. Oroh was one of those dishes mum would cook as a midweek dinner after our evening swim at our local leisure centre. Oroh is simply a name for smoky aubergine cooked with garlic, onions, tomatoes and chillies. If you’re a fan of North Indian food, you’ll probably know it as Baingan Bharta – the Punjabi version. Oroh is the Gujarati name for it and here’s how we cook it at home.
It’s really easy to be afraid of overdoing it with this dish. You might think it’s mad to add as much garlic as my recipe calls for but please do stick with it. The burnt aubergine needs flavours that can stand up to it so that the result is smoky, spicy, punchy and tangy.
I learnt to cook this when I was 12 years old and it blew my mind. I thought it was insane to cook aubergines on an open flame until they’re practically incinerated on the outside. It went against everything I thought to be true about Indian food. However, the very beauty of it was that while the outside burns to a crisp, the inside is cooked until butter-soft and smoky. Perfection.
Before you start, make some holes through the aubergines – otherwise there will be explosions and they won’t be fun to clean up. I also recommend you line your gas cooker with aluminium foil. That way once you’re done, you can just lift it off and throw it away. Nobody wants to be scrubbing their cooker for hours.
I’ve added spinach to this but to make classic Gujarti Oroh, you can simply leave it out. I like the combination of leafy green spinach and melt-in-the-mouth aubergine.
Serve with hot, buttery Gujarati Chapattis. The recipe for those will be posted up next.
Melt-in-the-Mouth Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry – Bhaji ne Ringra Oroh
3 large aubergines
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
1 large onion, diced finely
8 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 green chillies, chopped finely
390g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
250g baby leaf spinach
Fresh coriander and lemon wedges, to serve
1. Make around 10 holes in each aubergine and place one on each burner of your gas cooker. Turn the flame on high and cook the aubergines for 8 minutes. Don’t touch or move them during this time. Trust me.
Once 8 minutes have passed, use tongs to turn them over and cook the other sides for 8 minutes, again not moving them. Steam will escape from the holes you’ve made. It’s important not to leave the kitchen during this time! Open a window too. Once totally burnt on the outside, use tongs to place each aubergine onto a plate and set aside to cool.
2. In a large pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Cook for a minute and then add the onions. Allow to cook on a medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and chillies and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
3. Tip in the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the spinach and freshly-chopped coriander. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce is thick and the oil begins to separate from the tomatoes slightly.
4. Whilst the sauce is cooking, check the aubergines have cooled enough to handle. Split each aubergine lengthways and scrape out the soft inside. It’s okay if some burnt skin comes away with it but try to remove the large pieces. Chop it all up roughly and add to the tomato sauce along with the spinach. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring all the time until the spinach has wilted and any excess water has evaporated.
5. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander and lemon wedges.