Aubergine pickle

by Roopa Gulati

A sweet and spicy Keralan-style preserve


2 large round aubergines, cut into 3cm chunks
2 tbsp fine salt
Vegetable oil for deep fat frying, plus 3-4 tbsp for frying the ginger and garlic
150ml white or golden sesame oil (not toasted) or sunflower oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
75g ginger, finely chopped
100ml white wine vinegar

For the ground spice mix:
¾ tbsp mustard seeds
¾ tbsp fennel seeds
¾ tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
2 tbsp tamarind pulp, sieved
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
Small handful of fresh curry leaves


Put the aubergines in a big mixing bowl and mix in the salt. Leave on one side for six hours, or overnight if you have the time.

Heat a sturdy frying pan or griddle and roast the mustard seeds, fennel, cumin and fenugreek seeds for about 30 secs, or until the spices release a toasted aroma. Then, using a pestle and mortar, grind them to a powder and mix with the turmeric and chilli powder.

Drain and discard any liquid from the aubergines. Squeeze small handfuls of aubergine pieces together to extract as much moisture as possible.

Heat the vegetable oil in a big frying pan or wok. Deep fry the aubergines over a moderate heat for about 3-4 mins, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper—it’s best to do this in batches.

Fry the garlic and ginger in hot oil until beginning to turn colour. Add the vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat down low and stir in the ground spices, followed by the tamarind pulp, sugar and curry leaves.

Return the aubergines to the pan, stir well, spoon the pickle into sterilised jars and leave to cool. Pour over enough sesame oil to cover the aubergines. This pickle tastes best if left to mature for at least a week before serving. Can be stored for up to 6 months.

Recipe: Roopa Gulati