the final product: stuffed baby eggplants, bursting with a delicious filling and covered in a rich sauce
Welcome to part 3 of the garam masala six-part series! If you’ve been following this scenario you’ll know that I’ve been using different garam masalas for different foods; if you haven’t, then, if you’re curious, please click garam masala.
This week is my garam masala that goes with vegetables. No! don’t scroll down (or worse, away), I know lots of people have an issue with this cuisine. I have too. A challenge.
My biggest challenge over the years has been to create a dish for the vegetarians who come to my restaurant that not only tastes good but also looks really delicious!
Then comes another challenge, it should have no onions or garlic but still taste good and look superb!
Why no onions or garlic? Because, in keeping with the Jain tradition, onions and garlic are omitted. Plants that grow beneath the soil aren’t eaten. “Amazing!”, I hear you cry, “you can make a meal fit for a king without onions or garlic; but what about the flavour? what about….?” and on and on you’ll go, finishing off with the fact that you only ever cook using onions and garlic.
But before we start another challenge . . . it should have no dairy or milk products… instead of wondering what on earth to cook your son’s girlfriend who’s coming for dinner and who, your son absentmindedly tells you at the last minute, “Oh, and by the way mum, she’s vegan.” Try this dish!
People often think that vegetarian (not to mention vegan) meals are solely a plate of sad-looking vegetables served without meat. How wrong they are!
Or people think vegan cuisine is some sort of faddish macrobiotic meal that you need to go to a wholefood store to buy all the ingredients you’ve never heard of, or used before, and probably never will again.
But there must be something to the vegan diet that the Jains have been eating for thousands of years! Come see.
So, here is my version of a dish called ‘stuffed eggplant’ that the French call aubergines farces and the Italians melanzane ripieni alla Calabrese. My dish is called bharleli vangi which hails from the coastal region of Maharashtra in Western India. I assure you that once you make this, and your friends eat it, the other two will become history!! Believe you me. For a single page version of this recipe, click stuffed eggplant recipe.
What you’ll need for the filling, starting clockwise from the 12 o’clock position : salt, vegetable oil, bay leaf, ginger paste, ground turmeric, chilli powder, vegetarian garam masala, desiccated coconut, chopped tomatoes. Outside the ‘clock’: baby eggplants, chopped coriander and lemon juice”
vegetarian garam masala
set aside the bay leaves
grind all the spices (apart from the bay leaves) for approx. 15 seconds
the ground spices should have the texture of coarse sand
add 1 tablespoon salt to 1/2 litre of tepid water in a large bowl to immerse the deseeded eggplant
slice top off the eggplant
score the diameter of the circle using the tip of a sharp knife
scoop out the eggplant seeds [the scored circle will prevent the eggplant skin from tearing
scoop out the seeds until you can insert the teaspoon one inch into the eggplant’s length
in total, remove about 1 teaspoonful from each eggplant
this is how the eggplant should look after removing its seeds
place the scooped eggplants into the bowl of saltwater you prepared earlier – this will reduce the bitterness of the eggplant and prevent any discolouring of the inside
Step 14: Prepare the filling
add 1/2 cup of polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan
when the oil starts to smoke, add the two bay leaves
add 1 tablespoon of the ginger paste
fold in the ginger quickly
reduce the heat and add the turmeric and fold (note the vegetable oil base is becoming golden)
add 1 tablespoon chilli powder and fold
add the vegetarian garam masla and fold
add 11/2 cups desiccated coconut and fold
add 1 teaspoon salt
remove 1/2 mixture and set aside in a small bowl for the filling. The rest will be used to make the sauce!
add chopped coriander to the small bowl for the filling and fold
dry each eggplant using a clean tea-towel
with a small spoon, scoop up some of the filling and insert into each eggplant
place the filling into each eggplant
press down the filling firmly with the teaspoon
once stuffed, set aside the eggplant and repeat for each remaining eggplant!
add 3 tablespoons of polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan
when the oil is hot, place the eggplants in the frying pan
turn the eggplants frequently to ensure each side is evenly cooked
the eggplants’ skin will change colour when it is cooked and it will become crisper
pour hot oil over the eggplants
the eggplants will soon look like this
Step 36: slow cook the eggplants so that they cook on the inside
cover the frying pan to cook the eggplants on the inside
cover the frying pan and cook over low heat for ten minutes
when you remove the lid, watch out for the steam!
your eggplants will now be cooked
a close-up of the cooked filling
check that each eggplant is cooked – a knife inserted should slide through like butter
Step 42:prepare the sauce,
return the frying pan with the remaining mixture added onto a medium heat and add chopped tomatoes
fold in the chopped tomatoes
add any remaining filling and fold
fold until the oil comes away easily from the sides of the pan
add 4 tablespoons of water, or vegetable stock, and fold [you want a sauce-like consistency
fold till mixture comes to the boil
place a banana leaf on a plate
place sauce on the banana leaf
stand each eggplant in the sauce
add all the eggplants
add remaining sauce on top of the eggplants
add 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice to bring out the aroma of the dish
serve with a chappati or bread of your choice
You may also try this dish with baby cucumbers or baby courgettes instead of the baby eggplants!!
Trust me, cook it for a meat-eating friend who thinks vegan food is for rabbits. They will be amazed.
Happy cooking! And if any of you have any trouble, hints or anything you want to say about this dish, please let me know at the end of this blog! I’d particularly like to hear from our Jain cousins, or our vegan friends who’ve made either this, or any other, recipes and what they’ve found good about it. I’d also be amused to hear from you meat eaters out there who would usually baulk at a vegan meal and see what you think of it. So, get cooking and typing and let the feedback (no pun intended) begin!
Next week we will do a Hyderabadi version of dum ka murgh (slow-cooked chicken) using, guess what?, yes, the poultry garam masala!!
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!