In 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.