Curried Roasted Eggplant with Smoked Cardamom and Coconut Milk
A flavorsome vegetable curry.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 main-course servings
For the curry:
- 2 pounds eggplant , (about 10 medium Chinese or Japanese eggplant)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt, as needed
- 3 tablespoons ghee , (or coconut oil if vegan)
- 2 cups diced yellow onion , (from 2 medium or 3 smaller onions)
- 5 black cardamom pods, cracked
- 1 dried chile de arbol (or other medium-spicy chile), crumbled , (more or less to your taste)
- 8 green cardamom pods, cracked
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
- 1 " chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes (10 medium dry-farmed Early Girls), stemmed and diced
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk, (13.5 ounce / 400 mL)
- 1/2 cup water
- a few handfuls cilantro leaves, chopped
- a handful mint leaves, slivered
- 1 pint whole milk (Greek)yogurt, for serving
For the rice:
- 2 cups long-grain basmati rice
- 3 1/2 cups water, plus more for rinsing the rice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Roast the eggplant:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400ºIf using a long, slender variety of eggplant, cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices. If using a globe style eggplant, cut them into 2-inch square chunks. Pile the eggplant slices on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat with your hands. Spread the eggplant pieces on two baking sheets, and roast until golden on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to flip the slices over, and roast until tender and golden, 5-10 more minutes. Remove and turn off the oven.
Make the curry:
Heat the ghee in a large soup pot or dutch oven over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the onion, black cardamom pods, and crumbled chile de arbol. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and tender, 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, break open the green cardamom pods and shake out the black seeds. Combine these with the coriander and peppercorns in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder and grind finely.
When the onions are soft, stir in the ground spice mixture, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a few minutes to toast the spices, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, water, and the roasted eggplant. Increase the heat to bring the curry to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished, the eggplant should still hold its shape, but the sauce around it should be slightly thickened stew-like. Taste the curry, adding salt if you feel it needs it. It will thicken further if allowed to sit and cool.
While the curry simmers, make the rice:
Place the rice in a medium bowl and cover with cool water. Swish around for a few seconds, then drain off the milky water. Repeat this twice more; the water should be fairly clear. Drain the rice well and place it in a large, lidded saucepan with the 3 1/2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil over a medium-high flame, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let steam until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. If the rice is still crunchy, add another 1/4 cup water and continue cooking. Let the rice stand for ten minutes, then use a fork to fluff the rice.
Serve the things:
Spoon the curry onto a platter and shower with the chopped cilantro and slivered mint, and serve with rice and yogurt.
The curry keeps well, refrigerated, for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.
Adapted liberally from Nigel Slater's Tender.
This recipe works well with fresh small eggplant, such as the Japanese or Chinese varieties; in fact, you might consider roasting a few extra since the baked slices are delicious on their own and may disappear with alarming speed before making it into the final dish. If using larger globe eggplant, cut them into fat chunks, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit in a colander for 30 minutes to sweat out any bitterness. Rinse them well, drain, and pat dry. Proceed with the recipe, omitting the salt and adding it to the final dish to taste.
Black cardamom is a different variety than their green brethren, and the pods are dried over smoke giving them a campfire-like flavor. They add a nice richness to the curry, but they can be omitted if you don't have any on hand. Do warn guests that the stew contains whole black cardamom pods. The pods contain a lot of smoky flavor that comes out when they are stewed with the other ingredients, but biting into one whole is a wholly unpleasant experience.
If you cut the tomatoes in a fairly fine dice, the skin and seeds won't be a problem. Alternatively, peel and seed them as per the original recipe.
Nutritional values are based on one of six servings.
Calories: 630kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 454mg | Potassium: 1085mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 920IU | Vitamin C: 32.2mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 5mg