Aubergine with Nigella Seeds (Kalonji)

auber_nigellapOne ingredient, one spice and ready in ten minutes. I would never expect to find anything similar among Indian dishes, so obviously it was the first recipe I tested from a recently bought cookery book. After several meals served with this delightful side-dish, I am still in awe at its simplicity.

I found this gem in Madhur Jaffrey’s “Curry Nation”, a very interesting collection of Indian and in general South-Asian recipes from UK-based bars, restaurants, also from home cooks who live in Britain, but originate from this part of the world. I have already bookmarked many pages, but  when I saw this aubergine stir-fry by Saumya Singh, a banker from London, I almost jumped with joy, not only because it’s such an unusually quick dish, but also because nigella (aka onion seed/black seed/kalonji) is one of my favourite Indian spices. Even though the recipe is unbelievably easy, I have managed to add it my tiny personal touch: the addition of my beloved coconut oil. It has added a wonderful, somewhat buttery aroma that seems to suit perfectly the aubergine. (I have also slightly changed the ratio of the ingredients).

As a mildly flavoured dish, it is fantastic with just anything, not necessarily Indian. I like to have it with meat in any form and a yogurt-based dip/sauce (such as raita or tzatziki).

TIPS: You will find nigella seeds in every Indian (or other South-Asian) grocery shop (also easily on internet), but some vendors will call it by different names (onion seed/black seed/kalonji). The seeds are small, black and when cooked they resemble black mustard, though they are not round. I was also told nigella can be found in North-African shops, but I have never checked.

You can use any aubergine here, but I prefer either the small Asian ones or the “zebra” variety you see above and which has a thinner skin, as well as lighter, almost white flesh.

Preparation: about 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves three as the only side-dish):

1 medium Western aubergine/eggplant or 2 Asian ones, cut into 1cm (about 1/2 in) cubes

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon nigella seeds


Heat the oil and stir-fry the seeds and the aubergine at medium heat (if you have a heavy pan, such as cast iron or steel, you might want to lower the heat even more) for maximum ten minutes (or less, depending on the aubergine and the heat). Make sure you stir constantly and don’t burn the aubergine.

Add salt and serve.

12 Replies to “Aubergine with Nigella Seeds (Kalonji)”

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. It is incredibly simple, isn’t it? But without this cookery book, I’d never think about it on my own.

  1. Bobby just bought two Japanese aubergine plants today. Planting them tomorrow. Can’t wait to get some so I can make this. In the meantime, need to find some nigella seeds. Once again, SO easy with lots and lots of flavor!!!!

    1. Thank you, MJ. You will find nigella seeds at Amazon, I’m sure. I recently bought a kilo (yes, a kilo!) of Kashmiri chilli powder from UK Amazon and it’s soooo extraordinary, I think it won’t last long (here it was impossible to find in South-Asian shops). I know you have much more choice of food at the US Amazon (pity they don’t send food to Europe 😉 ).
      Fantastic! the Japanese aubergines are great with their thin skin and almost no seeds… I hope they will grow quickly.

  2. I love nigella seeds and I am slightly obsessed with aubergines… so I am cooking this soon. Just for me, everyone else in the house starts nagging when it comes to aubergines, but I am used to it and keep cooking them regularly just for myself and hope that if they see them often enough, they will eventually get used to it and maybe actually try them (and like them).

    1. Hi, Adina. Thumbs up! I also cook lots of dishes only for me! I know many people hate the mushiness of aubergines, but here they are still a bit crunchy, so who knows? Maybe some aubergine haters would like it?

  3. I can hardly believe it, but I don’t think I’ve ever had Nigella Seeds! The onion flavour would be fantastic in so many things plus I love that they are also a pretty garnish. I might have thought they were black sesame seeds!
    I love to use coconut oil too, such a versatile product. I make a jar of coconut oil with some ground sea salt and use it in the shower to exfoliate and moisten, it is absolutely lovely but be warned, furry friends will lick your legs because they love the flavour too!

    1. Hi Eva, you should taste nigella seeds. They are absolutely addictive and actually don’t have such a strong taste as they seem to. Thank you for the coconut oil tip and especially for the warning 😉 I have tried putting it on my face (don’t remember why, I must have read something on internet…) but it was such a pity to throw it… I decided to stick to it as a food product (I love the smell!).
      (By the way, have you tried exfoliating with coffee grounds? I don’t recommend it. The bathroom looks just awful afterwards…).

  4. I love how cookbooks can offer us inspiration like that – sometimes it’s an image or a flash of insight and it turns everything around. It’s not that it’s complicated but we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of it otherwise. These nigella seeds sound perfect here delicately poised among the aubergine. I like the thought of accompanying this them with a yogurt based dip – my latest favorite tzatziki hack is the yogurt sauce I pulled together for the chickpea cakes I recently featured (it saves a ton of time and tastes very similar) x.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. It’s funny because after having read and bookmarked lots of recipes from this book, this is the one that stayed in my head. The simplest and the most surprising (and I guess it’s easier to imagine the taste of such a short list of ingredients put together, so I was 100% sure I’d like it). Your tzatziki “hack” sounds wonderful!

Comments are closed.