Aubergines or eggplants are in season again! I love these beautiful, rich and royal coloured versatile vegetables. I was shopping for a quick few things at my favourite grocer (EZee Mart in Garneau) and in his fridge, I found these perfect baby aubergines. Baby aubergines go off very quickly, so I literally bought these, raced home, and made this curry today. So this is one of those rare off the cuff recipe posts, in which I am posting the recipe of tonight's dinner :-)
Bagara Baingan is a Hyderabadi curry, where baby aubergines are simmered in a delicately spiced peanut and sesame sauce. Creamy, nutty and spicy, this sauce is the perfect accompaniment to these flavourful and fresh vegetables. I actually make a slightly more complicated version of this same dish and you can find it here - but this time I wanted to keep it relatively simple, as I was in a hurry not to lose my natural light. We are lucky enough that in the summer we get some wonderful late evening light, but today was miserably rainy and cloudy. To be honest, I don't mind the rain so much, as the prairies really need it, and I love the spectacular thunderstorms we get here. But ocasionally, cloudy grey weather does have a way of sapping energy out of you (and then I wonder how the heck I ever lived in the UK all these years :-)
So the photos of this dish are not that great, but then again, its so hard to make a curry like this look good. You'll just have to trust me when I say that it tastes a heck of a lot better than it looks.
I adapted quite a few things with this recipe. First off, I roasted the aubergines, instead of frying them, just to make them a little healthier. While I love using whole spices in my spice paste, there is absolutely no reason why you can't use ground cumin and coriander to make life even easier. I also kept the stem on, but you can carefully cut off the stem, to make the dish easier to eat.
And the best part about this dish is that, while bagara baingan is traditionally made with aubergines (baingan means aubergine in Hindi) this sauce is incredibly versatile, and you can use pretty much any vegetables that you have at hand. It took me 40 minutes from start to finish to make this dish, and that is including prep like chopping onions, especially since I didn't have to include the step of frying the vegetables. And of course, like every Indian curry, this dish tastes fantastic the next day. The aubergines may have wilted a bit, but they will absorb a lot more of the spices, and a gentle reheat on the hob is all they need. Win-win, in my book!
8 purple baby aubergines (eggplants) all roughly the same size, if possible
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons peanuts
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
400 ml coconut milk, divided into half
1 teaspoon garam masala (homemade is lovely in this dish)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon, or to taste, hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon unscented oil
1 sprig (8 - 10) fresh curry leaves
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander (cilantro) to garnish
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Score the baby aubergines deeply with a sharp knife into quarters, but leave them whole, stem included.
Place the aubergines on a baking tray in a single layer, and roast them for 20 minutes, turning once, until just beginning to cook all the way through.
Make the spice paste. Toast the sesame seeds, the peanuts, whole coriander seeds, and whole cumin seeds in a hot pan, one by one, until fragrant. This could take between 20 - 45 seconds for each.
Place them in a powerful blender or a spice grinder, and blend them to a powder. The peanuts will begin to stick as they grind up.
Add 200 ml coconut milk, garam masala, ground turmeric, tamarind paste and chilli powder to the blender, and continue to blend for about 2 - 3 minutes, until the mixture is well blended. Keep aside.
Place the oil in a heavy based pan, and add the curry leaves. Fry for a minute on a medium high heat, then add the diced onion. Fry for about 5 minutes until the onion has softened and is just beginning to colour around the edges. Add the ginger and garlic, and saute for about 30 seconds more.
Add the spice paste to the the onion mixture, scraping it out of the blender. Mix together and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk and bring the sauce to a simmer.
Season to taste, with the salt.
Gently lower the baked aubergines into the sauce, and stir, pushing the sauce into the scored ridges. Cover and leave to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes (depending on the size of the aubergines), until they are cooked all the way through, and the sauce has reduced a bit.
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot. This dish goes well with rice and all sorts of Indian breads.