Monday, November 23, 2009
Vengan Bataka - Eggplant & Potato in Peanut Sauce
I recently bought India's Vegetarian Cooking: a regional guide by Monisha Bharadwaj and am head over heels in love. I've made four recipes from it in two days. The photographs are gorgeous, the recipes are shockingly easy considering how flavorful and unique they are. As if that weren't enough, Monisha's comments on "A Religious Perspective on Food" (all you yoga fans will recognize Ahimsa, the law of non-violence) and "Ayurveda" - balancing the five elements of nature in food - really sold me. I've always thought making authentic, flavorful Indian was out of reach, but this prooved me wrong! If you can't find an Indian mother to adopt you, this is the next best thing.
This recipe was out of this world. The eggplant was silky, the potatoes were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. And the nutty peanuts, flavorful tomato, and chickpea flour created a perfectly balanced dish that came together quickly and disappeared in much the same way. I adapted the recipe a bit to make sure all the ingredients were easy to find. Local Indian markets or stores with spices in bulk bins are a great place to buy super affordable spices.
2 tablespoons brown (unhulled) sesame seeds
3 heaping tablespoons peanuts
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 small can (14.5 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons garlic-ginger paste*
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt, to taste (about 1 tsp.)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
6 baby eggplants
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 handfuls fingerling potatoes (about 2 cups)
Handful cilantro leaves, chopped
1. Toast the peanuts and sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium low heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Whiz in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
2. In the same dry pan, toast the chickpea flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Mix with the tomatoes, breaking them up with your fingers.
3. Add the peanut-sesame mixture to the tomato-chickpea mixture. Add the *ginger-garlic paste (equal parts ginger and garlic blended until smooth). Add the turmeric, chili powder, sugar, and salt.
4. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Slit the eggplants lengthwise, up to the stem but without cutting through the stem. Stuff the eggplants with the tomato mixture. Save any remaining mixture.
5. Heat the oil in a heavy pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop.
6. Place the eggplants in the pan. Distribute the potatoes throughout. Pour over the remaining tomato mixture.
7. Add about 1/3 cup water. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat until the eggplant is very tender and the potato is soft throughout, about 25 minutes. Serve over brown Basmati riced boiled with 2 cloves and 2 cardamom pods.
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