This is the second course of that Indian menu.
I remember this dish from my childhood. I used to love it, even though I was not too fond of eggplant/aubergine. But something about the combination of creamy aubergine slices smothered in a spicy sauce appealed to me. Lately, when I wanted to make it I realized that my biggest problem was how to avoid having the dish swimming under a lake of oil. It was somehow unavoidable because I had to sear the aubergine in oil before I could braise it in the sauce. The searing is necessary because a bit of caramelized aubergine adds greatly to the flavour of the dish. But if you have cooked with aubergine or eggplant you know that this vegetable behaves like a giant chunk of blotting paper. You put a slice in a tub of oil, and right before your eyes the oil will reduce by half.
There is an easy solution for this of course, as I have mentioned in the aubergine fritters recipe. But that crispy coating would reduce to an unappetizing blob of dough the moment it comes in contact with the wetness of sauce. So I had to think of something else. And here is what I did. I brushed the eggplant with oil and put it under the broiler. It turned brown here and there, at which point I took it out and simmered it in my spicy sauce laced with cumin and ginger. The result was tasty and yet much lighter than the original version.
Recipe: Aubergine Masala
Approximately 2 kilos of purple aubergine
50 gms ginger*
1 ripe tomato
2 cups tomato puree
2 heaped tsp cumin
2 heaped tsp turmeric
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
1 large bayleaf
1 large chilli
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt or to taste
- Wash and trim the aubergine. Slice lengthwise into long wedges. Slice them in half crosswise to get shorter wedges that are easier to handle.
- Lay them on a baking sheet and brush liberally with oil. Put it under the broiler for about five minutes or until the slices start to turn brown at the edges but not cooked through. Set aside.
- Peel and grate the ginger or pound it into a rough paste in a mortar and pestle.
- Chop the tomato
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.
- Add the bayleaf, cumin seeds and chilli.
- When the chilli develops brown blisters and the cumin is brown, add the ginger. Stir for a few seconds and add the tomato and tomato puree.
- Make a slurry of the spice powders with water and add
- Stir fry on medium high heat until the water has mostly evaporated** and the oil starts to glisten on the surface.
- You should have a thick sauce now, if it is too dry then add some water, a quarter cup at a time. If it is too liquid, stir fry some more to reduce.
- Add salt and check the seasoning. The sauce should be strongly seasoned because the aubergine is not.
- Now add the vegetable wedges and simmer very gently over low heat for a good five minutes or until the aubergine is very tender, almost melting. Stir carefully so that the wedges don’t break.
- This dish goes well with rotis or bread, even though I served it with rice.
*If you are not a fan of ginger, then skip it totally. The recipe will then be a lot like the egg curry recipe I posted a while ago. And just as tasty if not more. Maybe more.
**This may sound like a waste of time if you end up adding water anyway at the end to adjust the quantity of sauce, but it is necessary to get the depth of flavour that partially caramelized tomatoes are capable of imparting to a sauce.