Monday 11 July 2011

Monsoon Madness

It was pouring this morning. Another English Summer July day.  It was like a Monsoon.  Maybe that is why I got the strongest craving for a curry.  And not just any curry, but it had to be an Aubergine curry.  I am not sure why.  In fact I am not sure that I have ever even eaten an Aubergine Curry before, or Brinjal Bhaji as it is more authentically known, but I knew that I wanted to.  This recipe has Tamarind in it which gives it a delicious sour flavour with combines brilliantly with the sweetness and richness of the Aubergine. 

Tamarind is easy to get hold of from most Indian shops but if you are having any problems getting hold of any spices, then I really recommend Seasoned Pioneers. They have such a fantastic selection of seasonings from all over the world and will send them out to you anywhere in Europe, for very little postage. All their spices come in sealable foil bags and although I am usually the sort to mix up my own spice blends, I was so excited by their range that along with Chipolte Chilli, which I have been searching for forever, I have ordered a few, ready mixed blends and I will be letting you know how I get on in the very near future.

Aubergines are at their best just now, shiny and fat and delicious.  There is something slightly dark and mysterious about them.  Native to India, they turn up in dishes from all over the world and work particularly well when char-grilled, either sliced or whole, as they absorb the smoky flavours, which gives dishes such as Moutabal its fantastic flavour.  Aubergines also feature in Japanese recipes, such as Aubergines Baked with Miso and the little baby ones known as pea aubergines are a main feature of Thai Curries.

They are notorious, however, for soaking up oil and I almost wrote them off at one stage, as I was so concerned how fattening they might be.  All the recipes that I was cooking seemed to require frying. Dishes such as Ratatouille or a number of Italian dishes which require them to be cooked "al Funghetto" or "in the style of mushrooms", i.e. fried in loads of olive oil.  It is only when I discovered that there was another way, that I came to love the aubergine again.

Simply cut your aubergine into large chunks (about 1" squared) and toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and lay out on flat trays, with plenty of room between pieces and roast in a medium/hot oven until golden brown, crisp on the outside, melting soft on the inside and delicious. So now this is how I make Ratatouille or Imam Bayeldi or Capanata.  And for Melanzane Parmigiana and Moussaka which used to involve flouring and frying the Aubergine slices in loads of olive oil,now I just brush them with oil and char-grill them instead.  All the flavour, half the fat!  Got to be a good thing.

Brinjal Bhaji (Aubergine Curry)

4 Aubergines
2 tsp of Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Ground Turmeric
Small handful of Curry leaves
2 tsp Mustard Seeds
3 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
2" Fresh Ginger,peeled and very finely chopped or grated 
1 Fresh red Chilli, very finely chopped
1 tin of whole plum tomatoes (400g)
1 tin chickpeas, drained
20 g of tamarind paste or pulp
1 bunch of Fresh chopped corriander
Yoghurt to serve

Chop up your aubergine into 1" chunks and toss with a little oil, some salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Spread out on some baking trays with plenty of room and roast in a medium/hot oven until golden brown all over.

Take a Wok or large heavy bottomed saucepan and heat with some oil.  Add mustard seeds. When they start to pop add the cumin, ground coriander and turmeric, fenugreek and curry leaves. Then add chopped onions, ginger, garlic and chilli.  Fry on medium flame until really soft.  Add the tomatoes and break up untill really mixed through.  Add the aubergines and a little salt to taste. Then add tamarind.  (If using pulp soak for 15 minutes in boiling hot water.   Then strain to remove the seeds.)   Add the chickpeas.

Cover with a lid and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes to allow the flavours to combine and mellow. Finally add the freshly chopped corriander and serve with freshly cooked basmati rice.  Add a dollop of yoghurt if you like.

1 comment:

  1. Why haven't I read your blog is so lovely. Actually, if you are brave enough you should roast the aubergine on an open fire. Just get some tongs and rotate on your hob. When the skin is falling off the flesh will start softening and you stir fry this with fresh garden peas and chopped onions and tomatoes...all the spices mentioned above (maybe not the mustard seeds). So yummy! Fresh coriander on top. My Aunts also make stuffed baby aubgergines. A total treat and I'll pass this recipe on after I've asked them about it.

    best wishes,



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