Is this recipe responsible for converting the vegetable-sceptic Zita? It’s another one inspired by Madhur Jaffrey, who gives it the verbose title ‘The Lake Palace Hotel’s Aubergine Cooked in the Pickling Style’. Works well as a meal on its own, with rice, raitha and chutney, or to accompany a more varied Indian meal. It’s also delicious served cold. If you’re wondering whether to buy an electric food processor, this recipe alone, in my opinion, would justify the investment.
2.5 cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
50 ml water
Plenty of vegetable oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
0.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp ground coriander
0.25 tsp ground turmeric
0.3 tsp cayenne pepper (more, if you like)
Cut the aubergines into slices or wedges that are 2cm thick and about 4-5cm long. Salt liberally and put in a colander to disgorge their liquid for an hour or so. (You can omit this stage if you’re short on time, but it does prevent the aubergines from absorbing loads of oil.)
Put the ginger and garlic into the small container of an electric blender or food processor. Add the water and whizz until fairly smooth.
Pat the aubergines dry, rinse the colander and set it over a plate or bowl. Put 50ml oil in a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot put in about a third of the aubergine slices. Let them turn a reddish-brown colour, turn over and brown the other sides. Remove the slices and put in the sieve. Repeat with the rest of the aubergines, adding fresh oil to the pan each time. Let the aubergines drain for another hour if you have time. If you don’t, you can get rid of the superfluous oil later.
Heat 3 tbsp oil in the frying pan and, when hot, put in the fennel and cumin seeds. As soon as the fennel seeds turn a few shades darker – takes just a few seconds – put in the tomatoes, the ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and 1tsp salt. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking the tomato pieces up. Turn the heat up slightly and continue to sir and cook until the spice mixture gets thick and paste-like.
Now put in the fried aubergine slices and mix gently. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring very gently. Cover the pan, turn heat to very low and cook another 5-10 minutes if you think it is necessary. Spoon off any pools of oil that have collected.