"I have a good collection of cookery books. This is not so much because I like cooking, but because I like eating."-Louise Brown
There are a few things recently I have tried my best to avoid: IKEA on Saturday, watching too many Charlie Sheen interviews and cooking bad Indian food. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful at all three. While, the first two are hopeless, I can at least try to improve my cookery skills. The quandary: Indian cuisine is just so delicious but the reality is that it can be culinary nightmare for kitchen novices like myself. So, for my own growth in the Indian cuisine department (to the joy of my mother) and in hopes of aiding other Indian cuisine-phobics, PR is sharing some simple but delicious Indian dish recipes from experts, family and friends over the next two weeks. If we can push our way through IKEA and listen to Charlie discuss his tiger blood, trust me, we can get through this together.
Recipe One: Eggplant in North-South Sauce
What is it? Side dish (or entree for vegetarians)
Source: At Home With Madhur Jaffrey
Legendary chef (and actress) Madhur Jaffrey has written a number of Indian cookbooks and is often credited with bringing Indian cuisine to the western world. Now normally, I would be a bit too intimidated to try the bestselling author's recipes but this latest collection promises to utilize simpler methods and techniques and fewer ingredients than many of the traditional recipes found in her other books.
Tidbits: Ever since I was a kid I have loved eggplant. There's just something inherently exotic about it with its interesting texture and vibrant color. But as an adult, I have never had the courage to try to cook eggplant in fear that it would just be a gooey mess. So, it was fitting for the first recipe, a formidable competitor would be the eggplant and fortunately Ms. Jaffrey's recipe makes it easy enough for novices (i.e. she's skipped some of the steps in her other more complicated recipes like browning the eggplant and found that the dish was just as good). This particular side can also be a great fusion dish since Ms. Jaffrey notes that it can be served cold as a salad with a western cold meats like slices of ham. To go traditional, serve it hot with a meat entree, rice and lentils.
Eggplant in North-South Sauce
Prep and Cook TIme: approximately 30 min; Serves 4-6
4 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/8 teaspoon ground asafetida (can be found in Indian grocery stores or substituted)
1/2 tsp. yellow split peas
1/2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. whole nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. slim Japanese eggplants (cut crossways into 1 in. segments--leave as much skin on as possible to avoid them falling apart)
2 medium tomatoes, grated (abot 1 1/4 cups)
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1. Pour the oil into a very large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the asafetida and the yellow split peas.
2. As soon as the peas turns a shade darker, add the mustard, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds (in that order)
3. When the mustard seeds begin to pop (a matter of seconds), add the onions. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the garlic and the eggplant. Stir and fry for 4 -5 minutes or until the onions are a bit browned.
4. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, salt and cayenne. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and cook about 20 minutes or until eggplants are tender, stirring now and then.
image source: eggplant dish: At Home With Madhur Jaffrey (published by Knopf), book cover: amazon.com