"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Virtual Cooking Lessons: Eggplant Curry

cooked red quinoaImage via Wikipedia
Cooked quinoa
Thought I would share today a recipe from another blogger that I think is terribly delicious. Since we're vegetarian this month (reference this post for the details) the recipe I am featuring is obviously meatless.

Generally, I am striving for a main dish with substantive protein content (hello quinoa!). If you're doing the same (as I know many of you out there are joining me in my Veguary adventure) then you might consider serving this curry over quinoa or adding chickpeas for a little dose of protein-ating fuel.

Eggplants are scary to me. I didn't grow up eating them, and intimidated, yea even a little worried about the whole idea of experimenting with them. I had no idea how to cook with them until about a six months ago. I am still very much in the learning stage, trying to figure out what in the world to do with them and how they are prepared. This is a great step on the road.

Curry, however, is my friend. A recent friend but, one I now feel quite cozy with and part of my go-to repetoire for recipes. They are easy to throw together and like stir fry, are elastic in their ability to encompass any number of ingredients. Usually the curries I make have either a yogurt base (Indian) or a coconut milk one (Thai). This curry has Indian flavors and spices but, is dairy-free...a boon to those of you who are lactose intolerant. At first the idea of a curry with no creamy base sounded off-putting but, I got over it as soon as the onions were browning away in the small mountains of fragrant spices. Curry is fantastically easy, very forgiving and just the thing to add a little zip to your winter menu.

It feels like stew, from the tropics!

Eggplant Curry
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 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 eggplants 
3 Tbsp ghee/olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, grated (I keep a jar of ginger puree in my fridge...look in your produce department near the jarred garlic or else over near the veggie trays.)
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
 1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves to garnish (optional)

Wash eggplants and dice into 1 inch cubes.

Heat ghee/oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring carefully for about 10 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. (Be patient and don't be tempted to rush this stage).

Add the 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 can 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 over rice. Enjoy!

(this recipe is lifted almost exactly from the beautiful blog, my darling lemon thyme...a dizzyingly delicious place to visit if you have a moment)
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