All the recipes this month will feature eggplant. This is because this summer I have had a LOT of eggplant to cook up. I grew eggplant seriously for the first time this year—last year I planted a few seedlings a friend gave me more than a month after the season had started—and was surprised and then overwhelmed by how early and prolific most of the plants were. I planted eight different varietals and 15 plants total. The first to come in were a long black Japanese variety, the Pot Black (a small varietal perfect for stuffing) and a lot of lovely little Fairy Tales. In August the larger varietals (Galine and Nadia) began to go off. I started giving a lot of it away to friends but could still barely keep up. The solution? Figure out new things to put eggplant into. One of them was this curry made with lamb shanks from a small farm in southern Minnesota from which I get lamb shanks, oxtails and other things every few months (in fact, there’s a big delivery today). I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but the results were really very good indeed. The lamb shanks are cooked long and low and the eggplant just melts into the gravy giving it depth of both texture and flavour. I recommend it highly, even if you’re not struggling to keep up with your garden bounty.
- 6-8 lamb shanks, about 3 lbs total
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tblspn freshly pounded ginger
- 1 tblspn freshly pounded garlic
- The following ground into a fine powder: 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn black peppercorn, 1 tspn fennel seeds, 1 star anise, 5 green cardamom pods, 1 2″ piece cinnamon, 3-5 Kashmiri chillies, 1 hot dried chilli
- 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tspn ginger powder
- 1 lb tomatoes, chopped
- 1lb long or Fairy Tale eggplant, chopped (don’t peel it)
- 2 cups water off the boil
- Neutral oil of choice
- A few tablespoons of chopped dhania/cilantro for garnish
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a deep, thick-bottomed saucepan (a ceramic Dutch oven is best).
- When the oil shimmers add the chopped onion and saute over medium heat, stirring regularly, till the onion has begun to brown nicely (7 minutes or so).
- Add the pounded ginger and garlic and saute till the raw aroma is gone.
- Add all the ground spices, the haldi and the ginger powder, mix in and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the lamb shanks and the salt, mix thoroughly and saute for 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly till the lamb begins to give up its water.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, mix thoroughly and saute, stirring often, till the tomatoes have completely cooked down and the oil begins to separate.
- Add the chopped eggplant and saute again, stirring regularly, till the eggplant has also given up its shape.
- Add the hot water, stir to mix in, bring to a simmer, cover the pan and cook over low heat till the lamb is tender but not quite falling off the bone (2-3 hours depending on your lamb and your pan). Uncover and stir every once in a while to make sure nothing sticks at the bottom. If necessary add more hot water 1/2 cup at a time. At the end, however, you should have a thick but easily pourable gravy.
- Garnish with the dhania and serve with steamed rice or parathas.
- As tasty as this turned out to be, the greatest triumph is that our kids ate it without complaint. You see, the eggplant dissolved so completely into the curry that they did not even know it was there. And, of course, we didn’t tell them.
- The next time I make this I may introduce another twist: charred and pureed eggplant. I’ve got a lot of that frozen in ziplocks too now…
- You can, of course, make this hotter if you insist: just rejigger the ratio of mild and hot chillies and/or use more black peppercorn.