Thursday, February 28, 2013

IHCC: Meat-Free But Flavorful!

Meat-free with Madhur Jaffrey. The big difficulty here is making a choice. Looking for something untried and interesting I found Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry (Vambotu Curry) in  World Vegetarian (p189).

You start by slicing the eggplant in 1/2" slices, rubbing it with oil, salt-and-peppering it, then popping it under the broiler for 4 minutes on the first side and 3 on the second. This gives slices that are a nice reddish color. These are quartered then tossed with salt, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, ground fennel, cayenne, and lime juice.

To finish, you heat up some oil in a frying pan, add a bit of cinnamon stick, then some curry leaves, and finally some sliced onion. When the onion has browned a bit, you add the spiced eggplant and stir for a  few minutes. Then stir some in coconut milk and ground brown mustard seeds. Cook this for a few more minutes, correct any spices, and serve. This is actually quite a quick meal, and nothing is too difficult. But ...
  • It was surprisingly bitter. We had trouble locating the source of this, but it seemed like while most of the eggplant in the dish was fine, some bits were nasty. I had bought two eggplants to make up the weight, thinking to use one and a half for this recipe and the rest for something later in the week. One of them, although it looked lovely on the outside, had a brown bit down through the middle from the stem-end. I discarded this, plus a bit extra, and sliced the rest. My guess is that even though I had discarded the part that looked bad and the rest looked fine, a nasty taste pervaded the entire eggplant. A dose of mango chutney mitigated this somewhat.
  • The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. In the recipe prologue, Jaffrey says that the original recipe called for 2 teaspoons. Since we tend to like things hot, I used that amount. First bite, seconds of nothing, then wham! Good stuff! But only if you like it hot. 
  • I poured the 1 tablespoon of oil for coating the eggplant slices into a little dish and used my fingers to anoint the slices. There was lots left here, so I used that plus just a dab more to finish the dish.
  • Two of us ate all of this dish, advertised as serving 3-4. Three maybe, four not, unless it were part of a larger meal.

After getting a taste of the heat, I quickly made of my favorite raita, Yoghurt with Cucumber and Mint from Indian Cooking (p162), as a go-with. It's better if it gets to sit around and ripen a bit, but good enough when it's tossed together just before serving.

This curry made one of those brown Indian meals. (I find it a challenge to avoid monochrome plates of Indian food.) Not the most attractive meal served over plain basmati rice. We were both surprised and disappointed by the bitter taste, but I will try this again when eggplants are in season.


This post is shared with this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs.

6 comments:

  1. That's a lot of cayenne! Sorry this disappointed. I like your think-on-your-feet style making the riata to overcome the heat and using the chutney to lessen the bitter flavor.

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  2. It's so useful that you have documented your not so great experience with this recipe. If I try it I'll do it cautiously and make sure to use a perfect eggplnat/

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  3. Sorry to hear that the eggplant was bitter! But I love that you have used the original amount of cayenne, I would too!

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  4. Sorry to hear that this dish disappointed. I agree with Michelle, 2 teaspoons of cayenne would choke the heck out of me, and I love things spicy. That is a lot of heat!

    Thanks for giving it a go and linking up with us.

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  5. It sounds like a great dish. Too bad about the bitterness. Did your eggplant have lots of seeds? I find that the bulk of the bitterness is in the seeds and it sometimes seems to pervade into the flesh in the "seedier" eggplants.

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  6. Deb, it wasn't an especially seedy eggplant. After I got past the brown bit, it was lovely and clear. Very much a puzzle, but I will try this again in the summer.

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