South-Indian aubergine-peanut curry

This is a twist on a traditional recipe my mother occasionally makes, and one that I absolutely love. Aubergines cooked down until they’re deliciously tender, in an aromatic spice mix with peanuts thrown in. The combination is rich and fragrant, and results in a curry that is delicious with rice. It’s easy to make and comes together in about 30 - 35 minutes. My mother traditionally uses tiny brinjals that she slits and fills with the spice mix, but I’ve substituted them with a large aubergine, which is easier to find. Feel free to vary the spice level as per what suits you, this dish tastes amazing with a bit of fire.

1 medium onion
1 medium aubergine
1 1/2 teaspoons ghee or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
3 heaped tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts
1 cup water
Salt to taste

Peel and quarter the onions, and then grind it down to a fine paste using a kitchen machine or a coffee grinder. Heat the ghee or oil in a deep pan over medium heat and add the onion paste, stirring to combine well. Fry the onion paste until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch that the paste doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, cut the head off the aubergine and halve it lengthwise. Further divide each half into quarters, and then slit these into thirds, lengthwise. Dive each length into thirds, across the width. Set aside.

To make the spice mix, wash and dry the kitchen machine or coffee grinder. Combine the peanuts and all the other spices and grind down to a very fine powder. The consistency of the powder will determine the consistency of the curry, so the finer the better.

Once the onion paste is well browned, add the aubergines to the pan and stir well to combine. Continue to cook on a medium flame for a couple of minutes, and then add the peanut-spice powder. Mix well to coat all the aubergine pieces and fry over a medium flame, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant and the aubergines start to get soft. Add a scant cup of water, stir through and bring to a gentle simmer. Add salt to taste and lower the heat, cover the pan tightly and allow the mixture to cook for about 20 - 25 minutes, until the aubergines are really soft and well cooked through. Keep stirring occasionally, checking the texture of the aubergines and making sure the curry doesn’t dry out.

Once the aubergines are done, check again for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve hot, with rice on the side.

Serves two as a main or four as a side dish
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 15 - 45 minutes, depending on how you cook the lentilsSave

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