Wednesday, April 3, 2013

tomato + eggplant curry with chilli + lime

tomato + eggplant curry with chilli + lime

Going home has made me miss it more than ever before. For the past two years I've been so busy trying not to think about how much I miss my family and friends back in NZ, but seeing them once again and especially taking the kids home this time has left me longing to be there. Sometimes my chest tightens when I think about how much I miss them. Everyday since we arrived back here in Perth Kye's last words before he falls asleep at night have been 'I miss Jaia mum'. Jaia being my nephew, the son of my eldest sister Jess. Kye and him got on like they'd never been apart, as did Ada and my niece Mila

But, we chose this life. And I know in the long run moving over here will have been the best choice we could have made at the time. It means that one day we will be able to live out our dream life on a little bit of land back home in Raglan, happily surrounded by vege gardens and chickens. Because really, that's all we want. All we've ever wanted.


When the time comes though, moving home isn't going to be as easy as that and this holiday really put that to the test. See the thing is I've made some amazing friends over here, who took me under their wings from day one, back when everything in this new life felt a bit too hard, too scary and all too new. If it weren't for them I think I would have been on that plane back to NZ within the first year! They cheer me up when I'm feeling down, they look after the kids when they know I've got cooking to do, even if it means them not achieving anything in the day they had planned on doing. They've done things like wait at the door on the kye's first day of kindy last year when they knew I'd be coming out in tears, arms outstretched ready to give me a hug. Heck, they even looked after my kids when I suddenly had to fly back to NZ late last year for my Grandfathers funeral and Si couldn't get back to Perth in time. I truly don't know what I would have done without them, what I'd do without them and I'm already dreading the day we have to say our farewells.

Untitled Untitled tomato + eggplant curry w/ chilli + lime

I suppose I'd better stop rambling and actually get onto talking about this recipe I have for you today eh? Okay. So when we arrived back home to Perth I was expecting the usual step off the plane into the blinding heat of Perth kinda thing. But alas it seemed the tide had changed and for those first few days back here and for possibly the first time in the history of the world, NZ was actually hotter than Perth?! I know, weird right. So while everyone back in NZ continued to go on about the beautiful long hot summer they've been having we were madly pulling out our jeans and jumpers, rugging up against the cold we'd found ourselves in (in typical Perth split personality styles though, it's been hot as hell again the past few days so the shorts and singlets have been out once more!). 

Being a New Zealander, it was always the Spring that used to bring a smile to my face after the long, long wet winter had passed. But now that we live here, it's autumn that brings relief. Relief from that insanely hot and long summer Western Australia is known for. The cooler nights and mornings are more than welcome and as usual it's the autumn produce that brings me the most joy. Our first trip to the markets on our arrival back here saw loads of cheap tomatoes and eggplant (aubergine). I'm a sucker for the baby eggplants well known throughout South East Asia and a nice hot curry is all that I craved. Pulling a few key ingredients out from my freezer along with a can of coconut milk, some rice, my market finds and a handful of herbs from the garden and this was me for lunch. The rest I froze in containers for the next time my craving should arise. My only wish is that I could have shared it with my sister who loves Thai food as much as me, but I'll stop talking now and just leave you to cook xx

tomato + eggplant curry w/ chilli + lime

tomato + eggplant curry w/ chilli + lime
I don't normally salt large eggplants as I find most varieties nowadays aren't too bitter. However I find the smaller Asian varieties are still very bitter and do still require that extra salting step to eliminate the bitter aftertaste. To make sure I always have the base curry ingredients at hand I have bags of long red chillis, kaffir lime leaves and grated ginger all ready to go in bags in my freezer. And as always please make sure you read over the ingredients listed on the back of your coconut milk tin, it should only read coconut and water. That's it. 
Serves 4-6 with rice

500g small long Asian eggplants, ends trimmed and sliced into 1 1/2cm rounds
fine sea salt

tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive or rice bran oil
4 spring onions, the white end only, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
1 long red Thai chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
5 small tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped*
2 tablespoons coconut or dark palm sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

curry sauce
2 tablespoon olive or rice bran oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 x 400ml tin good quality coconut milk
1 long red Thai chilli, thinly sliced
1/2 cup roughly chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and tender stems
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded + tough inner stem discarded
1  tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
the finely grated zest + juice of 1 lime
fine sea salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Steamed brown or white jasmine rice, coriander (cilantro) leaves, Thai basil, sliced chilli and lime wedges, to serve

First up lay the eggplant slices out onto a tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse off salt and pat eggplant slices dry with a clean tea towel or paper towel. 

To make the tomato paste heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add spring onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and cook, stirring often 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add chopped tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and salt and continue to cook for a further 6-8 minutes or until the tomatoes are pulpy. Remove from the heat and puree with a stick blender to a fine paste.

Wash out the saucepan quickly and return to the heat over medium. Add the oil for the curry sauce, when hot add the eggplant (aubergine) slices and red onion and cook, stirring often for 8-10 minutes or until the eggplant is starting to soften. Add the coconut milk, prepared tomato paste, sliced chilli, chopped coriander (cilantro), kaffir lime leaves, soy sauce, lime zest + juice. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplant is meltingly tender. Add a touch of water at any stage if the sauce is thickening up too much. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt/pepper, chilli, lime juice or sugar if needed to get the right balance of flavours. Serve hot over jasmine rice, scattered with coriander leaves, Thai basil, sliced chilli and a wedge of lime to squeeze.  

*To skin tomatoes; remove the hard core at one end and make a cross slit with a sharp knife on the other round end. Submerge into boiling water for 30-45 seconds, remove and run under cold water. The skins should now slip off easily.


  1. Delicious Em, sounds like you had a wonderful time back here in NZ :) Perfect to warm up Autumn...though it is not really that cool yet!

    1. Haha, yes so my family keep telling me :-) We had a great time. So bummed we didn't get to catch up though! Next time for sure love xx

  2. That looks ridiculously good.
    I love this whole post. Can totally relate to the feeling of being dislocated from friends and family in another country.


  3. I have a sister, too and we're inseparable!

    This dish is as fresh & colorful as you, Emma!

  4. Hi Emma, it must be hard missing your family as you do. but your friends sound like such AMAZING people, how blessed are you!? i guess you get back what you give out :-) gorgeous recipe, gorgeous photography xx

    1. Thanks Susan. I count myself lucky everyday to have such amazing friends both here in Australia and back home in NZ xx

  5. Welcome back Emma, and with a divine looking curry!

    And what lovely words about your friends and family, I always enjoy reading your posts. I know how hard it is being so far away from those close to you. x

  6. Aw, glad to hear you had such a good time at home, but yeah, saying goodbye is always hard. No matter which way you're going - home or Home. My freezer is stupidly tiny but you're inspiring me to find some space for cool things like kaffir lime leaves and chillis to stash in there!

  7. Emma, I found gorgeous Chinese eggplants at the market yday and went nuts - I think I picked up 15!

    I couldn't get your curry out of my mind.

    Guess what's for dinner tonight?

  8. I am sorry you are feeling so homesick for New Zealand and your family. It might help to know that it has suddenly turned cold here. Not horrifically so but the change was very sudden.
    I love the look of your dish - curries are what we will need here soon to warm us up.

  9. What a great way to use up some my garden eggplants- yummo!
    It is hard to live so far away from your family, I miss mine so much too and they live in the same country as me at least :)

  10. I know that feeling. It's not easy to live far away from friends and family. This does seem like a nice hot bowl of comfort. It's funny how home for one person is exotic to another. Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to try it when eggplant season comes around here!

  11. Oh that first line, "Going home has made me miss it more than ever before", is so very true isn't it? Welcome home, even if your return is filled with such mixed emotions. Love this recipe, eggplants are one of my very favourites.

  12. I left home when I was young and traveled ever since, so in a way I should be ok, but on the other I have now many countries that I call home and it is always sad to move away, but also a privilege. I like to think about the privilege part first :-). The curry looks so inviting! I really feel like something spicy now, when I get back to NZ (traveling again and staying in a kitchen with no spices) I will come back and have a good read :-).

    BTW, I also wanted to ask you, how do you find the google ads? Do they work for you?


  13. My sister and I stay in touch by texting our dinner menus to each other. You made me realize how badly we need to travel to see the other. Thanks for sharing and the recipe.

  14. I am away from my homeland for 20 years now and the older I get, I am missing it more and more.

    This recipe sounds great. I'll try it this weekend.

  15. Hi Emma,
    I just discovered your fantastic blog and this beautiful post with your gorgeous curry and your touching story about missing so much your "true home". Warm and inspiring, both the words and the food.
    I will surely give the curry a try and maybe add some bear's garlic which is currently in season over here on the other side of the world.

  16. This looks incredible, Emma. I understand your ambivalence about partings and goodbyes. I've moved around a lot for work and I know that the friends you make become your surrogate family. I moved back to my hometown 2+ years ago after I had kids and it's been fantastic but also tricky in lots of ways, too. But I'm getting the hang of it and have made lots of new friends here now. And I think that I am lucky because even though I miss them I have friends all over the world to visit when I get a chance!

  17. I made this last night with chickpeas, it was delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hi Emma

      I made this delicious recipe tonight, the flavours were perfect. The only changes I made were, I used one tin of organic crushed tomatoes (convenience), used one chilli (mine were extra hot!) and added some tofu (only because I wanted to use it up).

      Thanks again for posting (from another Perthite).



  18. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Really enjoyed all the spices in this curry. We didn't have eggplant so we used chinese egg tofu and peas for the green color. It was so good! Thank you for this recipe.
    We posted it on our blog as well:

    Hope to see more of your recipes soon!


Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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