The first recipe of the month featured eggplant; here now is another. I improvised this in mid-October and I think it was the last dish I made with the last of the eggplant from my garden. Truth be told, as much as we like eggplant, it’s been a bit of a relief to not be cooking it twice a week as I pretty much had been since early August! These were all long eggplant: a mix of Ping Tung (a purple varietal) and Thai Long Green. Could this recipe be adapted for globe eggplant? Probably, but cut-up globe eggplant is not going to hold its shape the way that long eggplant cut into thick disks does. Long eggplant is easily found in Indian and other Asian stores though, so that shouldn’t be a difficult hurdle to clear. The key flavour in this dish comes from a spice I threw into my grinder on a whim: black mustard seed. Its sharp bite comes through quite cleanly in the finished dish. If you are able to use mustard oil like a good Bengali then you’ll taste the sharpness even more. But it will be good even with a regular neutral oil. I also use the home-made Bengali spice blend, bhaja moshla, to add a little more punch at the end. This is not commercially available but you can use a pinch of your favourite garam masala instead (if you do, keep the pan on the heat for another minute after adding it).
- 2 lbs long eggplant, cut into thick rings
- 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
- 1 tspn freshly crushed ginger
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1/2 tspn hot red chilli powder
- The following spices ground to a fine powder: 1 tspn zeera/cumin; 1 tspn coriander seed; 1 tspn black mustard seed; 1 tspn fennel seed; 1/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seed
- 1.5 cups chopped tomato
- 1 tspn jaggery or dark brown sugar
- 1-2 Thai chillies, chopped
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 1.5 cups water
- 2 + 2 tblspns mustard oil or neutral oil of choice
- A big pinch of bhaja moshla or garam masala to finish
- Heat two tablespoons of mustard oil over medium-high heat in a wok or karhai till it just begins to smoke (if using grapeseed or avocado oil or similar, heat over medium heat till the oil shimmers), add the cut-up eggplant and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or till the eggplant begins to soften. Remove to a bowl and hold.
- Add the remaining oil to the wok/karhai and when smoking (or shimmering) add the onions. Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes till the onion has softened and begun to brown.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the crushed ginger and saute for another minute or till the raw aroma is gone.
- Add the haldi, the red chilli powder, the ground spices and the salt, mix in well and saute for another minute or two.
- Add the tomato, mix in well and saute, stirring often, till the contents of the pan have turned into an aromatic sludge and the oil begins to separate.
- Return the fried eggplant to the pan, mix in thoroughly and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the jaggery and chopped chillies, mix in thoroughly and saute for another minute or two.
- Add the water, mix in thoroughly, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook at a high simmer till the eggplant is almost done and the sauce has thickened.
- Add the peas, mix in and cook for another couple of minutes
- Add the bhaja moshla or the garam masala, mix in and take off the heat.
- Serve dal and rice or chapatis
- You can make this less hot by using a mild red chilli powder. I wouldn’t make it any hotter though as you want the sharpness of the mustard to come through clearly.
- Unless peas are in season I usually use frozen peas and saute till they’re full thawed.
- In a bit of a shocker, there is no Reel yet of this being made. But if you’re one of the depraved few who actually watches my cooking Reels on Instagram, don’t panic: I’ll put one up and link to it here in the next day or so.