Sunday, February 12, 2012
Tomato sambal with eggplant
It's based on the Tomato sambal in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, only her version is made with fresh tomatoes and doesn't include eggplant. It's a forgiving recipe that you can customize to your own taste, or double or triple if you have more people to feed.
Start with heating a little peanut oil in a small skillet. If you, like me, pour off the fragrant oil from the top of your jar of peanut butter, this is a good place to use it.
When the oil is hot, add a peeled, crushed garlic clove or two, and your eggplants, which you have sliced in a deep cross almost up to the stem, so they stay whole but can open up a little to receive the flavours of the sauce. Stir and fry until the garlic is golden, then add a cinnamon stick and a small handful of curry leaves. Madhur Jaffrey always says that if you can't find curry leaves, you can use fresh basil, and that that will give you a different but also good taste. No doubt, but if you can possibly lay your hands on some fresh curry leaves, do. They have a very special, utterly appetizing, popcorn-like fragrance, and they freeze well--these ones have been in the freezer for probably a couple of months and have a bit of freezer burn but they're still fine:
Stir that for a quick minute, then add thinly sliced onions:
...and continue to fry, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized:
By now, your kitchen is filled with the most amazingly lovely smell--the combination of all these things was made in some kind of East Indian heaven world, I'm sure--and add some canned tomatoes given a quick whirl with an immersion blender, plus some fresh, thinly sliced garlic:
Marvel at its beauty for a minute ;-), then season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on low heat until the eggplant is perfectly tender. Here's the whole, stupendous meal:
What it is is lentils topped with spinach briefly stir-fried with chopped ginger and further topped with caramelized onions (also from World Vegetarian), the tomato sambal with eggplant, and some cubes of butternut squash slow-fried in a very little bit of peanut oil and a dash of panch phoron (and no water; covered, in a non-stick pan, this worked wonderfully but I think you'd need to use a squash like butternut that will hold its shape if you want it to retain its cubitude; with kabocha, for instance, I think you'd likely end up with a very delicious mess). There's also a dab of tofu yogurt on the side. Fantastic.