sour eggplant curry

spicy sour eggplant curry

Off late, I've been craving everything that tastes sour, especially anything with a citrusy taste or flavor. Cravings are like the insane beast and my relationship with this creature sometimes involves, feeding and nurturing it. I probably unconsciously knew this going in when I picked up these gorgeous baby eggplants that I would indulge in a session of souring things up with the hope that it would entail future moments where I would slurp sour spicy goodness from a big bowl while sitting outside in the sun.

baby eggplants

So I spent my morning with my precious wok, sautéing onions and ginger in hot coconut oil flavored with the heat of dried whole red chilies and fragrant cumin. Then came those cherubic eggplants that sizzled and sputtered as soon as their dark purple skins met the heat of the pan. Finally, I stirred in the coconut milk and lime juice and once the yellow broth came together, I inhaled the scent of the fresh lime juice and knew it was all worth it in the end.

eggplants
hot spicy sour eggplant curry

This sour curry should be served hot with rice or bread or eaten directly. 

sour eggplant curry

sour eggplant curry

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1lb baby eggplants
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoon coconut oil
4 dried red chili peppers, whole (I used Kashmiri chili peppers)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups red onion thinly sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 inch ginger root, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 can/13.66 fluid ounces/403mL light coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
fresh mint leaves to garnish

1. Cut the eggplants crosswise from the bottom but leave the stems attached. Immerse the eggplants in a bowl containing cold water and vinegar to prevent blackening. Keep aside until ready to use
2. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok or saucepan with a lid on medium high for about 30 seconds. Add the chili and cumin to the wok and cook for 15 seconds. Immediately add the onions, turmeric powder and ginger root, stir occasionally and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. At this point, drain the eggplants and add them to the wok, sauté on medium high for about 3 minutes, stir occasionally. The eggplants should have their skins slightly seared.
3. Add the coconut milk, water and salt. Bring the contents to a boil on a medium high flame and the reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the eggplants are tender enough that a fork can easily pass through the flesh. Once the eggplant is cooked, fold in the fresh lemon juice. Cook for another minute and remove from the stove. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve hot with rice or flat bread.

parsi eggplant pickle

savory eggplant pickle

Ever since it arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I've been completely absorbed by my copy of Niloufer Ichaporia King's "My Bombay Kitchen", which is probably one of the best cookbooks that I have read in a while. Niloufer weaves a rich tapestry of story and food to describe one of the most unique and ancient cultures in the world. She walks you through the origins of the Zoroastrian people in Persia and their subsequent migration to the shores of India where they established themselves into the well-respected Parsi community. The book is complete with photographs of her childhood and family along with descriptions of some of the customs and cultural elements. Of course, beyond the amazing collection of recipes, she talks about food and its importance among the Parsi. This book is more than just a cookbook, it is a fascinating account of people, history, culture, and food and it should come as no surprise that this book received the coveted James Beard award in 2008.

eggplant and jaggery

As soon as I came across Niloufer's Parsi eggplant pickle recipe, I felt a strong desire to indulge a little. You see, eggplants are probably one of my favorite vegetables and it was hard to pass up an opportunity like this. This pickle recipe has a bit of everything in it, it is deliciously hot, sweet, sour, and salty. It hits all of the taste buds in the mouth and all the notes of your culinary senses. Pickles are a staple in most Indian meals with a little bit served as an accompaniment to each meal. They can revamp a simple or boring meal into something much more exciting which is exactly what this eggplant pickle does. 

parsi eggplant pickle

Breathing in the delicious aromas from the cumin, fenugreek, and fennel seeds while they sputtered in the hot oils, was heavenly. The flavors get even more bolder once the vinegar and jaggery cook with the eggplant cubes over the stove. Jaggery is a type of raw sugar that can be found at most Indian grocery stores but a lighter variety of brown sugar would do equally well in this pickle. For this particular recipe use fresh eggplants that are not bitter such as the Thai varieties to get a great tasting pickle. I prefer to buy my eggplants on the day I plan to cook them otherwise they get brown and bruised (They ripen very fast once plucked from the plant and will brown even in the refrigerator). Since I made a batch of this pickle, we have eaten it daily with almost every meal possible which makes me worry that maybe I should have made a larger batch!

fenugreekseeds and eggplant pickle

parsi eggplant pickle 

yields: approximately 2 quarts

ingredients

2 cups vegetable oil like peanut or mustard (I used peanut oil)
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3/4 cup garlic, thinly sliced 
3/4 cup fresh ginger root,  finely julienned and peeled 
2 tablespoons Kashmiri chili powder or any other hot dried red chili powder (cayenne)
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
5 pounds eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (do not peel)
1 cup fresh green/red thai chili peppers, halved
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup jaggery or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt

1. Heat the oil in a large non-reactive pan or deep pot on a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot add the fenugreek, cumin, and fennel seeds. The seeds will begin to sputter, immediately reduce the heat to a medium-low flame to prevent the seeds from burning.  
2. Immediately add the garlic and ginger to the oil. Stir till they turn golden in the hot oil. 
3. Add the Kashmiri chili and turmeric powders and cook for 15 seconds.
4. Add the eggplant and halved chili peppers to the hot oil and spices. 
5. Stir in the vinegar and sugar. Stir the contents of the pot carefully, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the contents with a lid. Cook the pickle for one hour with occasional stirring. If the eggplant begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, then add more vinegar (but never add water). 
6. Season the pickle with the salt and adjust the balance of the sweet and sour by adding more jaggery (sugar) and/or vinegar.
7. Transfer the cooled pickle into clean and sterile canning jars. Make sure there is a little bit of oil floating on the surface of the pickle in each jar. Seal the jars and process for 20 minutes (canning time can vary depending on your altitude). 

eggplant kuku


Last week was all about new experiences, I rescued a baby bird (it turned out to be a wren) from our sidewalk. The bird was sitting on the sidewalk, afraid and shaking. Not having the heart to let it spend the night out in the rain and potentially exposed to the dogs and cats of our neighborhood, I picked him up and brought him home. Since I could not get to the rescue facility, I kept him for a couple of days. I let him out during the day in our garden where I knew he'd be safe. Soon he came to recognize my voice and footsteps and would chirp and try to follow me around. Within a couple of days he was stronger and started to flap his wings to fly. It was time to let him back in the wild and we took him to a nearby park and left him under a bush where we knew he'd be safe. A few hours later we came back to check on him and he had made himself a little nest.  I knew then that he would survive, I really hope he is flying somewhere right now. There was a moment where I'd thought I might just keep him but one pet for now is more than enough. Plus, I don't think Snoopy was too happy with the temporary shift in attention. 


As with new experiences, I experimented in my kitchen this week and I think I might have my new potential brunch favorite, it looks like frittata but is so very different and has its own special charm. It is fragrant and colorful and can be combined with any type of vegetable or meat that you can think of. This baked egg casserole is called a kuku and goes well by itself or as an accompaniment to any meal. For this particular kuku, I used a large eggplant and some fresh herbs that we picked up at the Dupont Circle's Farmer's Market. I mention this later again in the recipe, sometimes eggplants can have a little bitter taste and you can extract the bitter flavor out by soaking the cut vegetable for a couple of minutes with some cold water and salt. Just remember to rinse the eggplant pieces in plain cold water and then wiping them dry before you cook.


You can add almost any type of fresh herb to this casserole, I used dill in this particular kuku but I've also made it with fresh parsley. What makes this delicious kuku different from other stuffed egg casserole dish, is that it uses a little lime juice, flour, and baking soda. I liked the meaty texture of the eggplant with the eggs, they both somehow come together and melt when you take a bite. This is definitely one of my new top additions to my weekend brunch menu and I think you  might want to add it to yours! I adapted this recipe from "Food of Life" by cook and author Najmeih Batmaglij.


eggplant kuku 

ingredients

8 large eggs
1 large eggplant (approximately 2 cups of peeled and diced eggplant)
1 large white onion (approximately 1 cup of diced onion)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 chopped fresh dill/parsley/cilantro
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
extra salt to wash the eggplant

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Heat a 10 inch diameter cast iron skillet on a medium flame and add the olive oil. Peel the eggplant and cut out four thin slices (about 2mm thick), you will use these to garnish the kuku. Keep the eggplant slices aside. Dice the rest of the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes and let them sit in a cold water and a little salt for 20 minutes. This helps to remove the bitterness of the eggplant. Discard the liquid (it will appear brown), rinse the chopped eggplant under running tap water. Pat them dry with a clean towel.
2. Peel and dice the onion and add it to the hot oil. Cook the onion till it gets golden brown, this should take about. Smash the garlic and peel the skin off, the finely chop the garlic and add it to the onions in the skillet and stir for 2 minutes. Add the chopped and washed eggplant to the onion and garlic mixture. Cook for another 15 minutes till the eggplant is translucent. Transfer the eggplant mix from the skillet into a bowl and let them cool for 10 minutes. 
3. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Chop the dill/parsley/cilantro, the flour, baking powder, turmeric, bread crumbs, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Whisk for about a minute to mix all the ingredients. Make sure that there are no flour clumps in the mixture. Fold the cooled eggplant mix into the whisked egg batter. 
4. Melt the butter in the same iron skillet on a medium flame. Remove the skillet from the gas. Make sure that the melted butter coats the surface of the pan completely. Pour the egg batter into the center of the skillet and place the four eggplant slices (that you cut and kept aside earlier) on the surface of the batter. and transfer the skillet to the heated oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and the center is cooked (test the center of the eggs with a skewer, if it comes out clean then the eggs are cooked). Remove the kuku from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. It will also be easier to remove the kuku from the bottom of the skillet. Serve warm by itself or with plain rice and yogurt.