Aubergine Caviar or Baigan Bharta or ORO

Today’s recipe is a very easy and versatile dish using Aubergines. Aubergines come in all shapes and colours ranging from light green to purple to almost black. You get small aubergines, long ones and the most popular are the big fat aubergines sold in all western supermarkets. In India, aubergines are eaten regularly and parents are always telling their children about the goodness of aubergines. Its dark colour does put off some people but the recipes I show will change your minds.

This recipe has been modified from one my parents used to cook years ago. My parents were farmers in India about 50 years ago. My mum used to make Bajra rotla recipe which look similar to chapattis but darker and thicker) and take them to the farm with either fresh garlic chutney (recipe to follow), raw onions and green chillies or yogurt. In the meantime, my dad would have plucked the aubergines from his farm and barbequed it over an open fire. When my mum got there, she would peel out the outside burnt aubergine skin and add the garlic chutney to it and serve it to my dad with the rotlas and yogurt.

So Aubergine Caviar or Baigan Bharta or ORO is really a poor man’s dish but become very popular in all Indian restaurants. In a way perfect during the credit crunch!

Well here’s my recipe:

Cooking  time 30 -40 minutes

Ingredients ( will serve 2 -3 ):

  • 1 large Aubergine
  • a handful of frozen peas (optional)
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 2 small Green chillies (optional)
  • A small bunch of Coriander (optional)
  • salt and chilly powder to taste
  • half teaspoon turmeric
  • half a teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 and half tablespoons sunflower seed oil (or any oil is fine)


1.     First oil the Aubergine, prick it and put in under the grill, turning it every 4 or 5 minutes or when the aubergine skin starts to wrinkle and burn.  You can also oil and prick the aubergine and cook it in the oven for 20 minutes.

2.     Remove the aubergine, slice it and let it cool for 10 minutes

3.     Remove the burnt skin and scoop out the inside in a clean bowl.

4.   Mash the aubergine with a fork. This mixture is often referred to as caviar, or bharta or oro in the Indian  restaurants. (This dish is versatile and at this stage, you can simply garnish it with the spices and add yogurt and eat it as a side dish) But the following steps will make it taste nicer.

5.  Add the frozen peas to the mix

6.  Chop the onions in very small pieces.

7.   Chop the chillies in half. You can chop them smaller if you like hot food.

8.  Chop the coriander

9.   Heat  the remaining oil in a saucepan

10.  Add the cumin seeds to the oil.

11.  Once the seeds go slightly golden brown, add the chopped onions and chillies.

12. Add salt, turmeric and chilly powder. The use of green chillies and chilly powder should be done with caution as not everyone likes hot food. You can use  pepper  instead but it’s not the same.

13.   Let the onions cook for 2 minutes – try not to overcook them.

14. Add the Aubergine mixture to the onion mixture.  

14.  Stir the Aubergine Caviar or Baigan Bharta or ORO well and transfer to a serving bowl.

15.  Sprinkle some coriander and serve with naan, chappatis, rotla or any Indian bread.

To make an aubergine dip:

You would mash the grilled aubergine flesh and then add yogurt, salt, finely chopped coriander and a tiny bit of garlic to the mixture.

Next time you see Bhaigan bharta on a menu in an Indian restaurant and see the cost, you can tell yourself that you could have cooked it yourself for under £2.00.