I cannot take credit for this idea. I first heard of Cheese Biganee from one of my cousins a couple of months ago. He told me that his neighbour makes it. Of course, I was immediately intrigued, so into the kitchen I headed, to experiment.
Biganee is thin slices of eggplant/bolanger/bigan dipped in a spiced split-pea batter and deep fried. It is one of the savoury snacks made especially during the celebration of Phagwah. I think that these days you can find Biganee being sold as a regular snack just as you can Phulourie, Egg ball or Cassava ball. Actually, the batter used to make Phulourie is what is used to coat the eggplant to make Biganee. Eaten with lashings of mango sour, Biganee is deliciously savoury. If you are not careful, you can find yourself overeating.
The cheese version of Biganee is this – grated cheese sprinkled over the Biganee as soon as it comes out of the frying pan and topped with a drizzle of ketchup so that when the Biganee cools, the cheese and ketchup become the top crust for the Biganee. Sounds good doesn’t it? It is; give it a try and serve it as an appetizer the next time you are entertaining or simply as an afternoon or tea snack.
In terms of taste – you know that something else is there, but you are not quite sure what it is, however, it makes the snack very moreish, that’s because the cheese really gets into the hot top crust. I do not think that the ketchup adds anything to the flavour, but it looks pretty (and we do eat with our eyes). It also distinguishes the Cheese Biganee from regular Biganee. I found that on its own, the Cheese Biganee was very good, especially if you do not skimp on the grated cheese, however, it is made even better with a dollop of sour, hot sauce or pepper sauce.
Here are some cooking notes for making Cheese Biganee.
● Make the batter using rehydrated split peas that you puree instead of a packaged Phulourie mix. It makes the fritter lighter.
● In addition to the usual seasonings for Phulourie – garlic, hot pepper, and salt, use an extra helping of freshly ground jeera/cumin to the mix. If you have access to cilantro/fresh coriander also known as dhania and Chinese parsley, chop it finely and fold it into the batter.
● As with Phulourie, let the batter rest for half an hour before using.
● Grate the cheese and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. I tested the recipe with sharp cheddar, however I think that Havarti, an aged Manchego, or high-quality Parmesan would work extremely well too. I think the next time I might try it with a smoked cheese for even more flavour.
● Slice the eggplant thicker than you would for traditional Biganee; I suggest ¼-inch thickness.
● While the oil is heating up for deep frying, slice the eggplant and smother the slices in the batter and let them stay there until ready to fry. Do this as you work in batches.
● As soon as the Biganee is done cooking and youremove it from the pan, liberally sprinkle it with grated cheese, so that the cheese melts into the Biganee. Follow that up immediately with a drizzle of ketchup.
● Serve it warm or at room temperature.
Let me know what you think if you try it.