My family are unfortunately fairly anonymous in their dislike of aubergines, but in this curry they have no objections to this lovely summer vegetable whatsoever.
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients (much of which are spices, which can be substituted with the equivalent amount of a good curry mix). I usually serve basmati rice with this and perhaps a tarka dhal. (Recipes, see below)
As with most cooking, it pays off to have a mise-en-place, i.e. the ingredients ready before you start cooking.
What you need
2 medium aubergines
3 tblsp of neutral oil (rape seed, sunflower, maize)
1-2 medium spring onions with green, finely chopped
150 g mushrooms (depending on the size) halved or quartered
1 handful of fresh garden peas or green beans cut into 2 cm pieces
1 tsp mustard and/or onion seed
3 garlic cloves crushed
5cm fresh ginger puréed
1 heaped tsp jeera (ground cumin)
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 level teaspoon (or less) chilli powder
1 level teaspoon (or more) turmeric
(the previous four ingredients can also be replaced by a good curry spice mix)
½ tbsp chillies, red or green, finely chopped (without seeds if you don’t want it too spicy)
1 pound tomatoes, skinned (see remarks) and chopped
1 tsp tamarind juice/pure (optional; can be replaced with a lemon juice)
a pinch of sugar (if needed)
salt to taste
1 tblsp freshly chopped coriander/cilantro herbs; for those not too keen on the flavour, lovage or flat-leaved parsley are a good alternative
What you do
- Put the aubergines in a baking dish (unless you do them on the barbeque) and rub them with about 1 tblsp of oil. Prick them with a fork and put them in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until they look wrinkled and feel mushy.
- In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, when it is really hot add the mustard and/or onion seeds and stir until they start spitting.
- Add the spring onions and the other powdered spices. Allow the spices to brown a little (a matter of seconds if the oil is hot).
- Add the garlic/ginger mix, the chopped chillies and the mushrooms and continue to fry. The mushrooms should take colour and go soft.
- Add the passata (the chopped tomatoes) and the peas or beans and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add the tamarind or lemon and a bit of sugar if the sour note dominates too much.
- Take the aubergines from the oven, cut them lengthwise in half, scoop out the soft flesh and mash it a little with a fork.
- Stir it into the mixture, heat everything up and let it bubble to thicken it a little and salt to taste.
- Before serving take the pan off the heat and stir in the herbs.
This is so easy, quick, a dish that can be allowed to get on with it by itself
- Measure out about 300g rice in a measuring jug, rince the rice in a strainer a couple of times, then place in a pan.
- Measure out 1.5 times the volume of the rice in water and add, season with bit of salt so that the water tastes mildly salty. (Optionally you can add any of the following: a tsp turmeric or some saffron for colouring and a few cardamom pods, some cinnamon bark and/or some ginger/garlic mix for flavour).
- Put a lid on the pan and place it on a small flame. When the liquid has been absorbed, fluff the rice up with a fork and put aside covered. If it is still a bit too hard, add a bit of boiling water and return to a low heat. (If you have added pods and other solid inedible flavourers, remove these before serving.)
Dhal (Tarka Dhal)
This too is easy and can be allowed to get on with it by itself. It can also be prepared a little earlier and then warmed up. If too dry, a bit of warm water can make it more liquid again.
- Pour 180 g red or yellow lentils, washed, into a pan with 600 ml of water,
- Add salt, a tsp (or more if you like it spicier) of chopped (green) chilli peppers, a level tsp of turmeric and a tblsp of ginger/garlic purée.
- Allow to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, then mash lightly with a cooking spoon.
- For those who like this spiced up, they can add a bit of tarka to their dhal: heat up a generous amount of (neutral) oil.
- Fry one sliced onion with a tsp of onion and mustard seeds each, as much dried red chillies as you fancy and add a sliced tomato at the end (about 2 minutes).
If you do the aubergines on a barbeque they acquire a lovely smokey flavour, difficult to duplicate in the oven.
Skinning tomatoes sounds like more work than it is: just immerse them for a short time in a pan with boiling water, take them out and run them under cold water. The skin will split and can easily be taken off with a sharp knife. Then you chop the flesh coarsely. Some say one should discard the seeds but apart from the fact that they don’t look very nice in the resulting passata, I really don’t have a problem with them.
Curries don’t need to be hellishly hot. You can easily steer this by adding more or less chilli powder.
The basic technique of frying the spices at the beginning and not to chuck in “raw” spices makes it a bit more difficult to get the seasoning right. If cooking for non-Indians, it is perhaps wiser to err on the side of caution and not to make the curry too hot.
The mixture of fresh ginger and garlic can be made in slightly larger quantities, always mix equal amounts of the two, for instance in a blender (add a bit of water if blending proves difficult). It can be stored in the fridge in an airtight jar for several days. It works well in all kinds of dishes.