Sunday, March 18, 2012

Indian Eggplants in Coconut Sauce

Very often, especially during the summer, I buy eggplants, preferably, the smaller Italian eggplants, and make all kind of dishes from them. My favorite are two: Afghan, topped with yogurt sauce, and Italian, stuffed with ricotta and finished with fresh basil.

But although at the Asian store I often pass by a stand with baby Indian eggplants, only recently I bought them for the first time. I did not know any particular recipe calling for them but my culinary intuition was telling me that they would of course taste great in Indian spices but also cooked in the coconut milk. I did not want any tomato in it as all the eggplant dishes I make already call for them.

The most popular recipe for cooking these eggplants in coconut milk also called for broth and curry powder or a mix of different spices. I chose to use a combination of spices and finish it with fresh green curry leaves. They gave that dish a very unique taste that may be intriguing to those who are not familiar with curry leaves. This rich and spicy, but also a very delicate dish, as baby eggplants flesh is even more delicate than in the regular eggplants, became instantly popular in my home.

Yesterday, I made it again, but instead of curry leaves, which are not always easily available, I used coriander leaves, which I always have in my refrigerator. A friend, who happened to taste my dish last night, liked it a lot. That encouraged me to share this recipe today, as despite many spices it calls for, it is a very easy and wonderful dish.

Indian Eggplants in Coconut Sauce
(Serves four)

2 lbs (about 12) baby eggplants,
1 medium onion, chopped,
4 garlic cloves, grated,
about 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated,
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk,
2 cups vegetable broth,
4 green cardamom pods,
4 cloves,
about 2-inch long piece of cinnamon,
1 tbsp ground coriander,
1 tsp ground cumin seeds,
1 tsp ground fennel seeds,
2 tsp turmeric,
salt and pepper to taste,
1 green chili, chopped,
2 limes,
3 tbsp vegetable oil,
1/4 cup chopped curry or coriander leaves.

1. Wash and drain eggplants. Cut off the stems and cut each eggplant into four pieces. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan with high walls. Add chopped onion, grated ginger, and grated garlic. Fry for about 3 minutes until onion becomes transparent.
3. Once eggplants release some juice, dry them with a paper towel and add them to the pan. Fry for about 3 minutes until eggplants dry a bit. Add ground coriander, cumin, fennel, and turmeric. Fry until spices coat well the eggplants. Add the rest of spices--cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick, and mix with eggplants. Follow with chopped green chili. Let it fry for another minute.
4. Add two cups of broth to the pan and let it boil. Pour in a can of coconut milk and bring it to boil. Turn the heat to low and let everything simmer for 15-20 minutes until eggplants become soft. You need to try them a few times as they should be soft but not overcooked and mushy.
5. Add ground pepper and salt to taste. Add chopped curry or coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and lime wedges (to be squeezed over the eggplants).