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Grilled eggplant and potato stacks with jaggery-peanut sauce (Tawa baingan)

Eggplant and potatoes are significant players in Indian cuisine. They are used liberally and are omnipresent in the market. My greengrocer has at least four varieties of eggplant at any given time: long, thin Japanese eggplants, large spotted globe eggplants, small green and purple eggplants, and maybe one or two additional varieties.

This contemporary recipe plays with traditional flavours; the base is the famed "aloo tikki", or potato croquette that is reimagined and stacked between slices of grilled eggplants. The potato mash is delicate and full of flavour. The jaggery-peanut sauce brings the dish together; it is rich, spicy, and has a popping taste. The combination is elegant and different, yet it plays with the traditional flavours of the Indian palate. This is a lovely contemporary dish that surprises on the menu and my guests always ask for a second helping.

For this recipe, I collaborated with Fresh Crush, who provided me with their organic jaggery and spiced jaggery. Guided by time-honoured wisdom passed down through generations, the Fresh Crush artisans meticulously handcraft each product, infusing it with a touch of tradition and a dash of love. Their farm-to-table product embraces sustainability and gives back to grassroots farming. Their spiced jaggery was excellent in the sauce, the sweetness was delicate, and the spices gave the final "oomph" to the dish to take it over the edge. Today, Fresh Crush makes fresh, natural, and spiced sugarcane juices and an array of sugarcane jaggery and spiced jaggery.

Rasika is a beautiful cookbook of contemporary Indian flavours. The chef has taken a variety of fabulous recipes and presented them in a modern setting, like this raita. I recommend this book to those who want something different on their table.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the eggplants:

2 large globe eggplants

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon pepper

Salt, to taste

Olive oil spray

For the potato filling:

2 large potatoes, peeled and chunked

5 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 teaspoons ginger paste

1-2 green chillies, minced

1 large tomato, finely diced

1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

11/2 teaspoons chaat masala

Mashed potatoes

Salt, to taste

Juice of 1/2-1 lime

For the jaggery-peanut sauce:

1/4 cup jaggery

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes, or to taste

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

Salt, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lime

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

To roast the eggplants: Cut the eggplants horizontally into thick circles. Layer them onto a lined baking sheet. Rub the slices with the garlic and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Spray liberally with oil and roast for 30-40 minutes until they are very soft. Turn the eggplant over after about 20 minutes to caramelise both sides. Remove, cool, and set aside.

To make the potato filling, Add the potatoes to a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks, until the potatoes are very soft. Drain and mash well till very smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the mustard seeds and fry for 10 seconds until they pop. Add the cumin seeds and stir for 5 seconds. Add the onions and fry on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes until they are very soft. Do not colour the onions.

Add the green chillies and ginger and fry for 1 minute until the ginger no longer smells raw. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10-12 minutes till the tomatoes are soft and broken down into a sauce.

Add the chilli powder, turmeric, and chaat masala and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened considerably. Add the salt and mashed potatoes and mix well to incorporate the sauce evenly. You are looking for thick, spiced mashed potatoes. Taste for salt and spice. Add the lime juice and mix it in. Taste for tartness.

To make the peanut sauce: Melt the jaggery over a low flame till it turns into a thick syrup, about 3-4 minutes. You must be very careful to do this over a very slow flame, stirring continually so you do not char the jaggery. Add the coconut milk carefully; it will splutter vigorously, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes until you have a thick sauce. Add the peanut butter and salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes till the peanut butter is incorporated into the sauce. Remove from the flame and mix the lime juice into the sauce well. Taste for salt, tartness and spice.

To assemble the dish. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Layer a large piece of the roasted eggplant on a lined baking sheet. Top generously with the potato mash. Top with a second smaller slice of eggplant. Arrange all the stacks, finishing the potato mash. Bake for 12-15 minutes till the stacks are very hot.

Meanwhile, heat the peanut-jaggery sauce. Spoon 2 tablespoons onto a plate, creating a pattern. Add the hot eggplant stack to the sauce and serve immediately.

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