Indian Aubergine with Sesame, Tamarind and an Egg

indian_sesame_aubIn which part of the world do you look for inspiration when looking for new aubergine recipes? For me India is a definite number one (Japanese cuisine comes in second position), so whenever in search for new aubergine ideas, I usually start with this part of my culinary library, especially if I have a new cookery book to play with! The recipe I chose contains a generous amount of sesame seeds, not what I’d expect in an Indian dish. Moreover, the presence of tamarind announced a slightly tangy dish… The result is fantastic, but the sesame seeds transform the other – less surprising – ingredients to the point where, I must admit, I’d never guess the origins of this dish. As a lazy cook, I simply topped it with a poached egg and had it with bread, transforming it into a delicious, creamy full one-bowl meal. The dish was memorable because it was the first time – I think – I had an excuse to sprinkle an Indian dish with my beloved roasted sesame seeds!

The new book I’ve mentioned above is Fresh India, a second recipes collection by Meera Sodha. I love her Made in India, but I hesitated a lot before buying this one because it is vegetarian. I am an avowed pisci- and carnivore, so I was worried it might even be vegan… but when I saw eggs are also featured here (luckily there’s Amazon’s “look inside” option), I was relieved. The pages are of course filled with meatless dishes (but I already visualise those topped with an egg, enriched with sliced chicken breast or shrimp…) and, most of all there are some mushroom and egg-including recipes that don’t need any other proteins, even for me.

This aubergine dish comes from Anhdra Pradesh, apparently known for a combination of tangy and fiery flavours. As usually, apart from the addition of an egg, I have transformed the recipe, for example replacing half of the sesame seeds with white sesame paste (I was afraid my blender wouldn’t transform the sesame into a smooth paste and I was right : the result was creamy with some tiny bits of sesame seeds). In short, whether you are a vegetarian or just an Indian cuisine fan, I encourage you to buy the wonderful Fresh India and check the original recipe for this delicious aubergine dish.

TIPS: Don’t skin your tomatoes. It’s absolutely unnecessary and mixed skins add more flavours anyway.

If you find poaching difficult, you can fry the egg too.

If you don’t own a “magical” Indian blender and aren’t sure if yours will crush sesame seeds to fine powder, add half sesame seeds and half sesame seed paste or grind the seeds in a spice/coffee grinder. By the way, if you cook Indian from time to time, I strongly recommend buying a cheap coffee grinder you shouldn’t use for coffee (cheap ones have blades and not burrs and cuts coffee instead of properly grinding it). It’s perfect for freshly ground spices and the difference is huuuge!

The recipe suggests serving this dish with cracked wheat and yogurt. I haven’t tested either, but,  maybe because of the poached egg, the dish was great simply served with bread.

I suggest warming up your individual bowls in the oven (at the lowest temperature; don’t go above 50°C if they aren’t heatproof) before serving this dish. It might take some time before fried/poached eggs are ready and this way your aubergine dish will keep warm for longer.

Preparation: 1h – 1h30

Ingredients (serves 3 as a side dish or 2 as a main course  with a poached egg):

2 medium aubergines/eggplants, cut into 3 cm thick sticks

1 medium onion (I have used two big shallots)

fresh mint or coriander leaves (or chives/green onion)

1 tablespoon oil (I have used coconut fat)

(toasted white sesame seeds)



2 medium tomatoes (or 1/3 small can of tomatoes)

2 heaped teaspoons white sesame seeds or 1 heaped teaspoon white sesame seeds + 1 heaped teaspoon white sesame paste (see the TIPS)

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons tamarind paste (or 2 tablespoons tamarind “juice” made from a block of tamarind and hot water)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

3 teaspoons medium hot chilli powder (I have used here Kashmiri chilli)

Place the sauce ingredients in a blender and mix well.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the sliced shallots and stir-fry until light brown.

Add the sauce and, when it’s warmed, the aubergine pieces and about 1/2 glass of water (they will absorb water, so the sauce must be more liquid).

Simmer, covered until the aubergine pieces are soft.

Add water if necessary.

Heat the water for poached eggs.

Divide the aubergine dish into individual bowls.

Poach 3 eggs, one by one, and place on top.

Sprinkle with chopped mint and, if you like, toasted sesame seeds.


Raita (Yogurt Sauce/Dip) with Pomegranate Seeds and Mint

pomegranata_raitapI thought this colourful raita might be like a ray of sunshine after a week of horribly cold rainy weather. The funny thing is that as soon as I prepared it, the sun really went out and suddenly the day felt like an extension of summer… so my roast chicken dinner felt particularly joyful. In spite of its summery appearance, this it is definitely an autumnal dish: here pomegranates are abundant (in full season from what I read, though of course imported) and, when it comes to fresh herbs, they still thrive on my balcony, so I am still able to pick fresh mint every day.

This delicious version of raita is one more jewel from Made in India: Cooked in Britain by Meera Sodha. As soon as I made it, I ranted once more about the boring almost identical choices in every Indian restaurant I went to in my area… but luckily I have wonderful cookery books and time to cook! Anyway, it’s the first time I added pomegranate to yogurt and I loved it! It can be served just like any raita (i.e. with Indian dishes), but it’s also fantastic with simple roast chicken, any kind of wrap and any heavy and/or fiery dish (such as my previous recipe, Spare Ribs in Guchujang), since it’s particularly mild and refreshing. I didn’t really look at Meera Sodha’s exact ingredients’ amounts, so I invite everyone to check the recipe in its original source.

TIPS: The recipe calls for dried mango powder (it’s available in Indian shops and on internet; I bought it from Amazon in UK), but I think you can easily replace it with tamarind juice.

Do not skip the tiny amount of sugar! It does add an additional flavour to the tangy raita.

If you are afraid of splashing pomegranate juice all around the kitchen, fill a big bowl with cold water, cut the pomegranate into 4 or two pieces and then tear it up under the water, taking out the seeds. The yellowish “skins” will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. All you need to do afterwards is straining the seeds.

Preparation: about 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate (or 1/2 big one)

1 natural unsweetened full fat yogurt (125 ml/about 4 oz)

a pinch of salt

a pinch of sugar

1/2 flat teaspoon dry mango powder

a pinch of powdered cumin (the best taste is obtained with freshly toasted whole seeds, which are then ground just before being used)

1 heaped tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Combine all the ingredients, taste and adjust the flavours, if needed. Chill for one hour (or not, if in a hurry) and serve.

Do not prepare it a day before: mint becomes soggy and spoils the whole raita.


Pork Spare Ribs in Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) Sauce

ribs_gochujangpI love pork ribs, but they have always been a rare treat, due to their fat content. I usually manage to avoid them in the summertime, but when it gets colder I start dreaming of my beloved sticky Chinese ribs simmered in soy sauce…. This autumn I’ve already made my beloved Chinese sticky pork ribs simmered in soy sauce and recently I thought I’d experiment with gochujang sauce I usually simmer chicken legs in (see the recipe here). I didn’t change anything apart from adding ginger which usually goes well with pork. If you like a mixture of sweet and fiery flavours, you will fall in love with this easy dish, just like I did.

If you don’t like hot flavours, you might be interested in this delicious Chinese dish:

Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce with Star Anise

Chinese Spare Ribs Braised in Soy Sauce with Star Anise

TIPS: Gochujang is a sticky Korean chilli paste. It has a slightly sweetish taste, it’s really unique and cannot be replaced with anything else. The good news is that it’s sold in “general” Asian shops (I find it in Chinese and Vietnamese shops) and most of all, it’s sold widely on internet, also on Amazon.

You can prepare the same dish with any fatty pork cut (belly for example) and even with tenderloin (adjusting the ingredients’ amounts and the cooking time), but not with loin, which will be too dry.

Apart from the normal soy sauce, you can add also some Chinese dark soy sauce. I find it great with Korean dishes, though I know it’s not Korean…

Preparation: 1h30

Ingredients (serves two-three, depending on how much meat there is on the bones):

1 kg pork ribs (I always trim the fat and cut them in half horizontally if they are long, but neither is necessary)

100 ml (about 3 fl oz) low-sodium Japanese soy sauce (or 70 ml of “normal” soy sauce)

300 ml (about 10 fl oz) water

60 ml (about 2 fl oz) agave syrup or honey

2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or any other vinegar)

2 heaped tablespoons gochujang (Korean chilli paste)

2 big garlic cloves chopped or sliced

3 cm fresh ginger, sliced

toasted sesame seeds

(1-2 tablespoons sesame oil)

Put all the ingredients into a pan (apart from ribs, sesame oil and sesame seeds).

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and put the ribs.

Cover and cook for about 1 hour.

Take off the lid and check if the meat falls off the bone.

If it’s the case, increase the heat to medium (thus the sauce will thicken). (If not, cover and cook until the meat becomes more tender, then increase the heat and uncover to thicken the sauce).

Cook until the sauce is thick enough for you.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and add a splash of sesame oil.

(You may want to remove the ginger slices before serving, unless they were really super thin and edible).

Egg Molee (Boiled Eggs in Coconut Masala)

eggmoleepHooray!!!! A new egg dish! If you are an egg addict and love Indian cuisine, you will be as excited as I was to discover this super easy, quick and easy-to-remember recipe. (If you cook Indian at least from time to time, you understand how rarely “easy-to-remember” can by used…). It looks messy and maybe not that appetising (ot looks better in R.Stein’s book), but, believe me, it’s unique.

This recipe is another jewel found in Rick Stein’s India, which, once more, I strongly advise to all the Indian cuisine lovers. Faced with an exceptional number of luscious-looking seafood and fish dishes this wonderful book contains, I simply kept on putting this recipe aside. Moreover, given the big amount of coconut milk and few spices, I expected a rather bland fatty result. Of course,  now I wonder why I have waited so long! Of course, if I decided to share it with you, it means it’s not bland at all and the fat content… well, I simply diluted coconut milk with water, the thing I do quite often. I treated the amounts of every ingredient very liberally and slightly changed the cooking process, so make sure you check the original recipe (and buy Rick Stein’s book!).

TIPS: Don’t use other onions here. Contrary to most Indian dishes I cooked, the onion is only simmered (not fried) and not added at the beginning of the frying process, so very finely sliced red onion is the only option (I have used mandolin).

Some other ideas for egg fans:

Bread Tartlet with Asparagus and Egg

Bread Tartlet with Asparagus and Egg

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Omurice (Japanese Omelette and Rice)

Omurice (Japanese Omelette and Rice)

Indian Egg Curry (Ande ki kari)

Indian Egg Curry (Ande ki kari)

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

two hard-boiled eggs, shelled

1 teaspoon mustard oil (or any cooking oil, if you cannot get it)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 heaped teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder (or other medium hot chilli powder)

50 ml coconut milk+50 ml water (or 100 ml coconut milk)

1 medium red onion, very finely sliced (use a mandolin, if you have it)

1 cm very finely shredded fresh ginger

about two heaped tablespoons sliced fresh green chilli (medium hot; don’t use for ex. bird’s-eye chillies, unless you know what you are doing…)


1/2 teaspoon garam masala

fresh coriander

Heat the oil at medium heat in a small pan. Put the eggs and, off the heat, add the turmeric and the chilli powder.

Stir for about 10-20 seconds (the pan will still be hot, so make sure the spices don’t burn), coating the eggs in spices.

Add the coconut milk, the water (if using), the ginger, the onion, the green chilli and let the whole lot simmer for about ten minutes or more (until the onion softens).

Add salt to taste, slice the eggs in two, sprinkle with garam masala, give it a stir and serve with fresh coriander leaves.

Tomato, Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

pomegranate_salad_It’s got colder in recent days and lower temperatures reminded me of the upcoming end of tomato season. I’m preserving it for the winter (preparing especially my beloved Indian chutney) and I eat raw ripe sweet tomatoes every single day, sometimes even twice, trying to enjoy them as long as they last. Last week this side dish was added to my favourite duo (Tomato and Shiso Salad and Indian Tomato Salad) and I cannot get enough of its various textures, flavours and scents, all in just one bowl.

This is a vague interpretation of a tomato salad and probably also inspired by other cold dishes from Persiana. Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond by Sabrina Ghaynour, a wonderful book I was offered by a friend. As an avowed carni- and piscivore I was surprised to realise a rare phenomenon : vegetable dishes stayed most firmly engraved in my memory after leafing and leafing through it. The presence of pomegranate is also particularly visible, so, as someone who has been buying it quite rarely, I suddenly feel very inspired and plan to include it in many dishes. Persiana has also made me buy a bottle of pomegranate molasses and though it’s the only dressing/sauce I used in this salad, it was just perfect, just like the author said. I felt no need even for salt or pepper! Another product to play with in the upcoming months!

In case you wonder what else to do with ripe, delicious, end-of-season tomatoes….

Indian Tomato Salad

Indian Tomato Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Tomato and Shiso Salad

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

Indian-Style Tomato Chutney

TIPS: Pomegranate molasses are simply thickened pomegranate juice, so if you buy it, read well the ingredients. If anything else (apart from pomegranate juice) appears (for example sugar), it’s not the real thing.

Emptying a pomegranate is not obvious at first. Until now the best tip I have found is cutting through the fruit in half and emptying it submerged in a bowl of water. The yellowish skins will float at the surface and thus will be easy to remove. Beware! Pomegranate juice stains clothes!

Preparation : about 10 minutes (if you have emptied your pomegranate)

Ingredients (serves two-three):

seeds from 1 small pomegranate

1 small cucumber (or 1/4 of a long cucumber) 

3 medium very ripe tomatoes

1/2 – 1 small red onion

kernels from 3-4 walnuts

a generous splash of pomegranate molasses

(fresh mint)

Cut the cucumber and the tomato into chunks.

Slice the onion finely (I have used a mandolin).

Chop the walnut kernels roughly.

Arrange all the ingredients in a bowl.

Add the pomegranate molasses and serve.

(This salad keeps quite well in the fridge for at least 24 hours though it’s best freshly made).