Trini Carnival: Eggplant (Baigan) Choka with Coconut Bake

eggplant

We began the sit-down (but informal) portion of our meal with a starter of roasted eggplant choka on a round of coconut bake (a quick bread that can be either baked or fried).  Choka is a common Trinidadian Indian preparation of many vegetables, most commonly eggplant (known locally as baigan or melongene), tomato or pumpkin.  I love them all.  It’s the kind of dish you should be able to find anywhere, but on our recent trip home to Trinidad, whenever I tried to order one as the filling for my roti at the roti shop, they were out.  Trinis, I’m afraid, love meat and anything deep fried, and come to think of it, the only vegetables I ate for a week were deep fried.  Not always a bad thing, but enough is enough!  So arm yourself with this technique, and you won’t be faced with a similar fate of meat and fried things.  Apologies for the bad photo– eggplant is never photogenic, and in mood lighting? Even worse.

And for a lively tale of bake and more on another Caribbean island, St. Vincent, read Francis Lam’s article in Afar‘s May 2013 issue.  The Trinidadian couple he mentions (thankfully anonymously) are Mr. and Mrs. Spicebox Travels!

Baigan Choka with Coconut Bake

choka bake

Choka

Ingredients

1 Eggplant

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted

oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Technique

1.  Preheat oven to 300 F.

2.  Wash and dry eggplant.  Cut in half lengthwise and place, cut side up, onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Use a paring knife to cut deep diagonal slices into the flesh, but not through the skin, of the eggplant halves.  Repeat at a 45 degree angle in the other direction until you have diamonds.

3.  Brush each eggplant half with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle on a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4.  Roast in oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the flesh is soft when pierced with a fork, and the eggplant loses its shape

5.  Use a spoon to scoop out the roasted eggplant flesh and put it into a bowl.

6.  Heat some oil in a pan and add chopped onion, garlic, salt and black pepper.  Cook for a minute until onion is just softened, then combine entire mixture along with the toasted cumin seeds into the roasted eggplant.  Add salt to taste.

Coconut Bake

coconut-bakeIngredients

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

4 Tbsp margarine (butter may be substituted but would not be authentic)

¾ cup coconut milk

Technique

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Sift together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

3.  Work in margarine with your fingertips until crumbly.

4. Add coconut milk, first stirring with a spoon and then your hands to form dough into a smooth ball. Depending on your kitchen’s humidity, you may need more coconut milk or more flour; add a tiny bit at a time. Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.

5.  After dough has rested, roll out onto a floured surface to a 1 inch thick circle. Transfer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden.

6.  Bake be eaten on its own, or split horizontally to make sandwiches with choka, buljol, smoked herring, or for more familiar flavors, avocado, tomato and onion, ham or eggs.

Thanks for coming by! This is the fourth post about our recent Trini Carnival Supperclub.  Please visit the preceding posts on the menu, the Spicebox Cocktail, and nibble on fried plantains.  Come back soon for our next course!

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