Much to my amusement, I discovered that not only was it #Meatfreeweek this week but also #NationalButchersweek. Deliberate counter-campaign, coincidence, sweet irony or bad planning? Anyway, I publish so many meat-based posts that I thought I’d share my all-time favourite vegetarian meal. Asian cookery abounds with delicious meat-free dishes and this aubergine curry is an adaptation of Madhur Jaffrey’s Lake Palace Hotel recipe that I’ve been making regularly for more than 20 years. Served with basmati rice cooked with a little sautéed onion and laced with brown lentils or tiny yellow moong dal (Butterworth’s on The Traverse in Bury St Edmunds stock lots of Asian spices and pulses) with a cucumber raita on the side, it’s a feast any week of the year.
You will need...
- 2 medium aubergines
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
- A one cube of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed into a paste
- 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp black kalonji (nigella) seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add more if you want it hotter)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Cut the aubergine lengthwise and then into 2.5cm chunks.
- Set a sieve over a large bowl.
- Heat the oil in a deep sided frying pan. When hot, fry the aubergine in batches until golden on all sides and transfer to the sieve to allow the excess oil to drain out. Don’t skimp on the oil – it will cook the aubergines more easily and you can discard the excess.
- Remove all but a tablespoon of the oil and then add the kalonji, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds. They will pop and release their flavoured oils in a few moments.
- Quickly add the coriander, ginger, garlic, cayenne, salt and turmeric. Stir for a few moments and then add the tomatoes. It will quickly form a spicy, thick sauce – cook it through for a few more minutes and then add the drained aubergine chunks back in. I usually turn off the heat at this point and leave it for a little while to allow the flavours to more fully develop but you can it eat it more or less straightaway. Just be careful not to stir it too much, you want to keep the aubergine pieces whole.
- Serve with basmati rice and a cucumber and mint raita (natural yoghurt, chopped cucumber and mint, a pinch of salt).