Eggplant season has begun to get underway here in Minnesota—I just harvested my first eggplant today, a small Pot Black. If all goes well, we will have plenty of eggplant in August. And as I am growing three different long varieties (Ping Tung, Nagasaki and Chinese String), I am constantly on the lookout for recipes where these will particularly shine. I am happy to say that this recipe—which I improvised at the end of May—is one of them. The secret weapon here is a commercial masala mix. As I may have mentioned before, one of the things I am exploring more this year is the use of commercial regional spice mixes. There are so many of these available now at my local Indian stores and it’s a world I need to spend more time in. One of the mixes I bought back in May was Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. If you can’t find it near you, you can probably find it online. Malvani cuisine is one of the cuisines of southwestern India, the flavours of which I just love. I used this Malvani masala in a beef curry when I first got it and while that came out quite well it is in this dish that I like it even more. I add it at the point at which I would normally add whatever spice mix I would have ground myself. Coconut milk adds some richness and the final result is a dish with a sticky texture and robust flavour. Give it a go.
- Roughly 1 lb long eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into small chunks
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 2-3 large cloves of garlic
- About as much ginger, pounded to a rough paste with the garlic
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tspn red chilli powder of choice
- 1 tblspn Bedekar’s Malvani Masala
- Roughly 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- Roughly 1/3 cup thick coconut milk
- 1 tspn jaggery or dark brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- Neutral oil of choice
- 1 tbspn chopped dhania/cilantro for garnish
- Heat 2-3 tblspns of oil over medium heat till it shimmers and add the sliced onion and the curry leaves.
- Saute for at least 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly, till the onions have softened and begun to brown.
- Add the crushed ginger-garlic and saute for another minute or two or till the aroma changes.
- Add the haldi, red chilli powder, Malvani masala and salt and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the cut-up eggplant, mix in thoroughly and saute, stirring constantly, for 7-10 minutes till the eggplant chunks begin to shrink.
- Add the crushed tomato, mix in thorougly, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it, and saute, stirring often till the oil separates.
- Add the water, mix in, cover and cook at a simmer for 15 minutes or so till the eggplant is cooked through.
- Uncover, add the coconut milk and jaggery, stir in and simmer, uncovered, for another 5-7 minutes till the liquid is almost completely absorbed. The final consistency of the sauce should be of a thick, clingy paste.
- Garnish with the dhania and serve with dal and rice or chapatis.
- I don’t make this very spicy, using either Kashmiri chilli powder or deggi mirch. You could make it spicier if you like with a hotter chilli powder or by adding slit Thai chillies at some point.
- Don’t be too enthusiastic with the salt as the final dish will not have much liquid. If you accidentally add too much, just use more water and make this as more of a curry.
- Yes, I posted a Reel of this being made the first time. You can watch it here (and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram—it’s where most of my cooking stuff goes). In fact, my friend Pradnya made this by watching the Reel, with zucchini in place of eggplant and reported it came out very well. That’s a variation I might try too.