It’s eggplant season in Qatar! That means lots of ratatouille-esque roasted vegetable meals. Unfortunately, the whole family doesn’t get as excited about that as I do, so I’ve been on a mission to make my handsomes enjoy eggplant.
I think a good first step would be to start calling it aubergine. It sounds much more exotic that way, don’t you agree?
I am actually new to this vegetable, myself. The first time I ever knowingly ate eggplant, um, I mean, aubergine, was at an Italian restaurant in Miami about 6 years ago. I was underwhelmed. The first time I bought and cooked aubergine was last winter after a trip to the local farm. I cooked it, it was mushy and tasteless, and again I was underwhelmed.
But aubergine is full of vitamins and minerals, and it is the most powerful natural source of nasunin. Plus, it is cheap and local. So I’m not give up until it’s a welcome part of our diet!
I think I’ve found the secret to enjoying eggplant: curry! Because it has very little flavour on its own, and because it soaks up the surrounding flavours, it’s a great candidate for a curry dish. I’ve tried a couple of eggplant curries, but this one from Susan at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen is my favourite so far. It’s not necessarily a quick meal if you follow her instructions and roast the eggplant first. But I skipped that step and still enjoyed the dish. In a pinch for time, I think this recipe can be simplified further by swapping curry powder for the cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and coriander. But I really enjoyed the combination of spices in this curry, so I think the 4.5 minutes it takes to assemble the spices is a valuable use of time.
Instead of using ground turmeric, I grated fresh turmeric root . It’s that funny looking thing below the garlic in the photo. Grating it stains my fingers temporarily, but I like to think of it as a badge of honour (the fresh ingredient badge). The health benefits of turmeric are outstanding: it’s anti-inflammatory, it fights cancer, and it might even clean wounds. (source) To top it all off, its mild flavour is hardly noticeable, so it’s an easy add-in to a number or recipies…as long as you don’t mind the end result (and your fingers) stained yellow. Susan makes her own garam masala. So far I simply use a blend from the grocery store, but it sounds like something for my to do list.
Please note: I took quite a few liberties with this recipe, so it may be best to check out the original.
Eggplant Chickpea Curry (original recipe here).
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 inches ginger root, grated
1 inch turmeric root, grated
1 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 medium eggplants*
1 red bell pepper seeded and diced
1/2 c. chickpeas, soaked, cooked, frozen and thawed**
3-4 fresh tomatoes, chopped or 1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. broth or water
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
salt to taste (I felt it needed quite a bit of salt – maybe 1 tsp?)
Instructions: Saute onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and spices in olive oil. Add eggplant and cook until beginning to soften. Add red pepper, chickpeas, tomatoes and broth, and simmer until sauce thickens (15 minutes?). Add cilantro and salt to taste. Serve with brown basmati rice or millet (or any grain). Or, if you’re grain-free like we are right now, add some extra broth and call it a curried soup! Enjoy!
*One small caution: this curry is full of veggies from the nightshade family (eggplant, peppers and tomatoes). It may be beneficial for people with some conditions (like arthritis, for example) to be cautious with the quantity of these foods they eat. (See this article for more information). World’s Healthiest Foods has included this family of foods on their list of the 10 most controversial foods.
**Because chickpeas pose somewhat of a challenge to my digestion I’ve substituted white (Great Northern) beans and chicken, both with great results!