Well, I’ve finally made that eggplant curry I was talking about making a while back. I’ve actually been quite amazed to see cheap eggplants already making their ways into stores this early on in the season, but you would never hear me complaining! Oh no, no. I’m really loving them right now. That being said, it has been a long and winding road, learning to love eggplants. I’ve never not liked them, I think it’s been more a case of working in too many cafes where the done thing was to slather slices in way to much oil and chargrill. Ick.
Prepared in this way, the eggplant cooks down into meltingly soft mouthfuls that are full of flavour having soaked up all those fragrant spices and tomatoes.
I know a lot of people are scared off by long winded Indian recipes, with numerous ingredients and steps to follow. But this one I assure you is really straight forward. I have eliminated a few of the usual steps to not only make it faster to prepare, but a damn site healthier too. The recipe this was based on, deep-fried the eggplant first. I have chosen to use a onion base to give the same rich, deep flavour without all the fat. The trick is though, you really do have to cook the onion out for the full 10 minutes. Watch it, and stir often. But don’t be scared to take it to almost burning point! I mean, you obviously don’t want it to be burnt, but get it as close as you can. The depth of flavour this gives is mind-boggling, even more so if you use the ghee or clarified butter to cook it in. (I’ve included a recipe below for both).
I also don’t bother with salting my eggplants. This step used to be essential to release the bitterness in most eggplants. But I find nowadays, that most eggplants if they are nice, young, freshly picked ones without big black seeds inside, they don’t require this step.
As with most curries, the flavour of this really improves over time, so making it a day ahead is not a bad idea. Or make more than enough, so you have some leftovers for the following day.
Loosely based on a spiced eggplant recipe in The food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe and Carol Selva Rajah.
eggplant curry recipe
As mentioned above, like most curries this recipe keeps well, and actually improves with time. If you have leftovers simply reheat the next day, re-check seasoning, adding more salt if needed and serve on freshly steamed rice. I like to use ghee (see recipe below) in curries for the authentic flavour it gives. It is lactose-free, but if you avoid dairy altogether simply use a neutral vegetable oil like rice bran oil. I like to use whole cumin seeds, but by all means use ground cumin if that’s what you have. Make sure you use regular brown onions in this recipe, red onions have a higher sugar content and tend to burn too easily in curries like this, where long, slow cooking is required. Serves 4-6
- 2 medium (800g/1lb 12oz) eggplants (aubergine)
- 3 Tbsp ghee/vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or a small pinch of chilli powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 400g tin (14oz) chopped tomatoes
- a small handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves to garnish (optional)
Wash eggplants and dice into 2 cm cubes.
Heat ghee/oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. (Be patient and don’t be tempted to rush this stage).
Add the grated ginger, crushed garlic, fennel and cumin seeds. Cook for about 2 minutes until garlic and ginger are fragrant. Add ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne/chilli powder and salt. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the diced eggplant and stir well to coat evenly with spices. Pour in the tin of chopped tomatoes, give it a big stir, then place the lid on and continue to cook over low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Check and stir a few times to ensure it’s not catching on the bottom. Turn temperature down a little if need be.
When the sauce has thickened and the eggplant is meltingly soft, check the seasoning once more. Serve sprinkled with coriander/cilantro leaves and steamed rice. Enjoy!
Ghee is so easy to make at home and is a great lactose-free alternative to butter in cooking. It heats to a high temperature without burning and gives a lovely buttery flavour. Clarified butter can be used in place of ghee and also has very low levels of lactose, if any. Because ghee has no milk solids it keeps really well at room temperature. I store mine in a glass jar on the bench for up to 1-2 months. You can make it in any amounts you like, but I tend to make at least 500g (1 pound) at a time.
- 500g (1 pound) unsalted butter
Place the butter in a small pot. Bring slowly to the boil over a low heat and continue to boil gently for around 10-15 minutes.
To take it further to ghee, simply cook for the full 10-15 minutes. In this time any foam left will drop to the bottom, combine with the milk solids and go all nutty and brown. This gives the ghee a lovely toasted flavour. Carefully pour the clear amber liquid into a glass jar, leaving behind the white sediment. Allow to cool and store either at room temperature or in the fridge.