Keralite cuisine is amongst my favourites, it is bold, spicy and beautifully flavoured. The spice mixes are complex but well-balanced and pack a punch. Brinjal is a favourite vegetable and comes in a number of varieties from the long green Thai eggplants to the large Globe and small local eggplant varietals. they are also cooked in a number of ways, from the popular North Indian bharta to Enna kathikai, also from Kerala. Here is another classic that is delicious.
The recipe is bold. The curry is a confluence of complex spices that saturate your palate. The baby eggplants are soft and buttery and completely coated in the curry. The dish is best served with greasy Malabar parathas or rice and will be the start on your table.
This little cookbook that I picked up in Cochin many years ago is one of my favorites for Kerala cuisine. The recipes are packed in, this is not the glossy picture recipe book, but it makes up with its depth of wonderful and authentic recipes. It is also so cheap, you cannot resist but buy it, if you can find it after all these years. You will definItaly see me publish from here more, as I have cooked a large part of this book over the decades.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the spice paste:
2 teaspoons chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ginger paste
5-6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon anise (saunf) seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup desiccated coconut powder, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup water
For the curry:
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
15 curry leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely minced, or purèed
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
1 1/2-2 tablespoons tamarind paste
3 cups water
Cilantro, minced, to garnish
5-6 small round brinjals, Cut on the stem into 4 but leave the brinjals intact
5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Add all the ingredients for the spice paste to a small blender and blitz till very smooth. It will take a bit for the poppy seeds and coconut to be completely ground fine. Set aside.
Cut the brinjals and soak them in the salted water for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a pot and add the whole spices, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and curry leaves. Fry for about 1 minute on low till the cardamom has turned a shade darker.
Add the onions and fry till the onions have a light golden colour. Add the ground spice mix and fry till the mix is dry and the oils begin to pool in small bubbles, about 80-10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and continue to cook on low heat for 10 minutes till the tomatoes are beginning to break down and get integrated into the sauce.
Add the sugar, salt, tamarind, water and drained brinjals and cook covered for 25-30 minutes till the eggplants are very soft. The cooking time will vary on the size and variety of the brinjal. Taste the curry, it should be bold, spicy, tart and full of flavour. The oil should be pooling on top of the curry and it should be rich maroon colour. The curry should be thick and cling heavily to the brinjal.
Serve hot with rice or parathas. I like to serve it using a contemporary style, take out the eggplants, they will be soft and tend to fall apart. Layer the brinjals on top of the curry in a line and garnish with cilantro.