- 1 onion, thickly sliced
- 75g unsalted peanuts, skinned
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp white poppy seeds
- 200g wet, seedless tamarind block
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ¾ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 rounded tsp jaggery or light brown soft sugar
- 8 small, round or oval aubergines (about 600g)
- 4 tbsp sunflower oil
- About 15 fresh curry leaves
Break up the tamarind block with your hands and put it in a heatproof bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover generously and soak for 15-20 mins, until it is totally soft. Leave to one side to cool.
Push the tamarind pulp through a metal sieve and discard any fibres. Sometimes a fine-meshed sieve can become clogged with the pulp. It’s best to use a coarse sieve, conical strainer or even a colander instead. Add a little water if the tamarind is too thick to easily pass through the sieve. Aim for a consistency similar to a cake batter. Set aside.
Heat a griddle or cast-iron frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and peanuts and dry-roast for about 3-4 mins, until the nuts pick up flecks of colour. Reduce the heat to low and add the coconut, then the coriander, sesame, cumin and poppy seeds, and continue cooking for about 2-3 mins, until the coconut darkens and the spices are aromatic.
Take the pan off the heat, transfer everything to a bowl and add 75g of the wet, seedless tamarind pulp, turmeric, chilli powder and jaggery or sugar. Stir to combine, then scrape the mixture into a food processor and blend to a thick paste, adding a splash of water if needed. (You can use a mortar and pestle for this if you don’t have a food processor.)
Slit each aubergine from bottom to stem through the centre, but not quite all the way through – they should each hold together at the stem. Fill each aubergine with a dessertspoon of the spiced peanut paste, reserving the remaining paste to make a sauce.
Heat the oil in a large, sturdy frying pan over a medium heat. Add the filled aubergines and fry on both sides until the skin darkens and the flesh begins to soften. This should take about 5 mins. Carefully transfer them from the pan onto a plate.
Add the curry leaves to the oil in the frying pan. Then, after a few seconds, add the reserved peanut paste. Cook for 3-4 mins, stirring all the time, then pour over 250ml of hot water or enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
Bring the masala to a simmer over a medium-low heat and return the aubergines to the pan, arranging them in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook the aubergines over a low heat for about 15-20 mins, until tender and the masala has thickened (add a splash of water if it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan). Serve with Indian breads or rice.
Recipe from India: The World Vegetarian (Bloomsbury Absolute)
Image: David Loftus
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