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Cooking with white eggplants and onions from my garden.

I enjoyed growing this variety of eggplant in my garden. It was a visual delight, growing in elegant white clusters amidst beautiful star pointed purple flowers. It was also surprisingly mild and sweet tasting.

After I came back from my trip towards end of summer, I was only able to harvest a few eggplants, not enough to make a substantial dish for the whole family. So I decided to stretch the vegetable by adding it to rice to make an Indian rice dish called Vangi Baath or Eggplant Rice. This is traditionally made in western and southern parts of India.

The vegetable is cooked with a premade spice powder and then added to rice to make a less fussy version of a pilaf.

Vangi Baath or Eggplant Pilaf

Cook 3-4 cups of white rice and set aside.

For the spice powder

½ tsp oil

1 tbsp yellow split peas [Chana Dal]

2  tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

5-6 whole dried Red Indian chilies

Warm a small pan with oil. Add the split peas and coriander, stir continuously till fragrant and the split peas are toasted to a light brown hue. Next add the cumin and red chilies and toast for a few seconds. Turn the stove off, cool and grind the spices to a fine powder.

To prepare the vegetable

3 tbsp oil or ghee

1 tsp  whole mustard seeds

A few curry leaves

2 cups diced eggplant

1 cup diced onions

Salt to taste

A small amount of tamarind soaked in a 1/4 cup of hot water [see pic]. When cool, squeeze the tamarind to extract the pulp. Discard the remnant fibres.

Soak the diced eggplant in water for ten minutes to leech out any bitterness, then drain.

Warm oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and let it pop, add the curry leaves.

Sauté the drained eggplant and onions till the eggplant is almost cooked, about 12-15 minutes.

Add salt, the tamarind extract and 1-2 tablespoon of spice powder and cook for a minute.

Putting it together

Spread 3-4 cups of rice on a wide plate. Add the cooked eggplant to the rice and gently mix so the rice doesn’t clump together. Adjust for salt, put in a dish and serve, with raita and papad or potato chips.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

Cooking with Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onions and Thai Chilies from my garden. 

I asked my dear friend Saroj while we were both living in London, to teach me a dish from her native Orissa. She rummaged through my vegetable crisper, pulled out an eggplant and a tomato, handed it to me and asked me to boil it while she looked for other ingredients. How about you teach me something else I said with trepidation at the thought of a soggy, collapsed eggplant. I was already planning a backup lunch if things didn’t work out. Boy was I wrong! This eggplant dish is one of my faves and I have become its ambassador, recommending it to anyone who asks me for a simple healthy suggestion for a side.

Method

You simply boil or steam the eggplant, tomato and potato. Peel the potatoes, then mash everybody else together skin and all. Finely chop a medium onion, a chili pepper or two and a handful of cilantro leaves. Chop this garnish really fine as you don’t want to bite into chunky pieces of raw onion or chili. Mix the garnish into the mash. Add salt to taste and squeeze the juice of ½ a small lemon.

Please take note, even though this is not a sophisticated dish, follow the proportions indicated in the picture. Too many tomatoes will make it runny and too many eggplants will make it very earthy.

The eggplant in this dish is normally grilled whole over a flame, but in London neither of us had a gas stove so she adapted the recipe to include steamed/ boiled eggplant. Why bother with all the bits of flying eggplant skin while grilling or messing with an oven to roast the eggplant when it works so well this way.

It doesn’t take much effort to make this, it is fat free and tastes great. Hope you will try this and not be skeptical like I was at first. 

Saroj, thank you so much for this recipe.

Food Notes

I boil and steam the veggies simultaneously in an Indian style pressure cooker. I put the potatoes in water in a stainless steel bowl and set it in the the cooker. Then I put a steam rack on top of this bowl with the eggplant and tomatoes on it. This way the eggplant and tomatoes hold their juices inside while the potato cooks perfectly in water.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

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