I realize that eggplant is one of those vegetables that people either love or hate but I am in the camp of aficionados of this meaty vegetable which we are preparing in a South Indian style with coconut milk.
This recipe results in a creamy and slightly spicy “curry” featuring eggplant as the main dish. This is delicious when served with Indian-inspired breads like our gluten-free naan made with almond and tapioca flour or on a pillow of fluffy aromatic brown basmati rice. Enjoy Meatless Monday and Namaste!
For the curry:
2 pounds eggplant (about 10 medium Chinese or Japanese eggplant) Important prep detail: Slice the eggplant lengthwise, then in half moons. Spread out onto cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt. This will sweat the water out of the eggplant and allow it to brown while sautéing.
1/4 cup olive oil (for sautéing)
Additional salt, as needed
The spices: These should be ground and at hand prior to starting your dish. Don’t try to grind while sautéing your eggplant or onions or you will be sure to burn them.
1 dried chile de arbol (or chili flakes if in a pinch), crumbled (more or less to your taste)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
8 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons coconut oil (you may use butter if you are not vegan)
2 cups minced yellow onion (from 2 medium or 3 smaller onions)
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
1 pound ripe tomatoes (10 medium dry-farmed Early Girls), stemmed and diced
1 (13.5 ounce / 400 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup water
a few handfuls cilantro leaves, chopped
a handful mint leaves, slivered
Use a large pan to sauté the eggplant. Saute in batches so as not to crowd the pan or the eggplant will not carmelize. Once sautéed, use slotted spoon to remove from the pan and spread out on cookie sheet. Taste for salt and sprinkle more to taste while still hot.
Make the curry:
Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the onion and crumbled chile de arbol. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
When the onions are soft, stir in the ground spice mixture, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a few minutes to toast the spices, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, water, and the sauteed eggplant. Increase the heat to bring the curry to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and taste for salt before serving. When finished, the eggplant should still hold its shape, but the sauce around it should be slightly thickened stew-like. It will thicken further if allowed to sit and cool.
Serve with garnishes:
Spoon the curry onto a platter and shower with the chopped cilantro and slivered mint or your favorite chutney (mango chutney is my preferred), and serve with rice or naan. You may also garnish with and additional whipped coconut milk or yogurt for non-vegans. This dish pairs perfectly with your favorite local Riesling wine.
The curry keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.