Gingery Eggplant In Coconut Sauce

A gingery, peanutty, coconutty sauce drizzled over butter-soft eggplants is a side-dish to die for. Or better still, to live for.

People are often baffled by eggplants. Those who have never cooked with this vegetable are not sure what on earth to do with it. Some have tried it but detest it because all they can recall is bitter, chewy, undercooked flesh and a hard skin.

But undercooking eggplant is an unspeakable kitchen crime against this delicious vegetable– so delicious, in fact, that it tops the list of my favorite vegetables (and that is not a small achievement given how much I love all veggies). Take that as a rule of thumb, in fact– never, ever, undercook your eggplant, and you will learn to love this tall, dark, handsome vegetable with all your heart.

Eggplant is a great vegetable to serve meat-eaters and vegetarians because it has that earthy robustness that’s very deeply satisfying. Layer it in lasagnas, roast it on an open fire and mush it up with spices for a wonderful side dish, or coat slices of eggplant in a pakora batter and fry them up. And those are just three of about a bazillion ways to cook up this veggie. One of my favorite ways to use eggplant is to chop it up, sprinkle it with a little rosemary and salt and olive oil, roast it in an oven, and add it to pastas. Heaven.

For the side dish I am sharing today I roast the eggplants in the oven first to make them tender and compliant before adding them to the sauce. It is a technique I often use to ensure my eggplants are thorougly and completely cooked. Traditional Indian cooks would deep-fry the eggplants first, because that would make them meltingly soft, but here’s a big disadvantage with that: as virtuous as eggplants are, they are also spongy little bastards when it comes to oil. They drink it up thirstily and you end up with about a thousand more calories than you bargained for. Roasting helps them soften up too, but you control how much oil goes in.

And now for some eggplant love: My Gingery Eggplants in Coconut Sauce. Enjoy, all!

Gingery Eggplants in Coconut Sauce

Ingredients:

1 large onion, cut into thin slices

1 tbsp finely grated ginger

1 tbsp finely grated garlic (you can also just put it through a garlic press)

1 tsp mustard seeds

8 small, round eggplants (make two cross cuts from the top almost all the way to the base, without cutting through the eggplant.) You can also use 1 large eggplant instead, cut into slivers about an inch long (I find the small, round eggplants at the Indian or Asian stores in my neighborhood. They have a thinner skin and firmer flesh. Italian or Japanese eggplants are also fine for this dish)

1/2 cup coconut

4 green cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 1-inch piece of cinnamon

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)

1 tsp fenugreek or methi seeds (you can leave these out if you absolutely can’t find them, but they have a really pleasant bitterness that’s amazing in this dish. They are also really good for you.)

1/4 cup peanuts

2 dry red chillies

1 tbsp jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar. Use regular or brown sugar if you can’t find this)

3 tsp oil

1 tsp turmeric

Place the eggplants in an ovensafe dish large enough so it can hold the eggplants in a single layer. Sprinkle with some salt and half the turmeric. Drizzle 1 tsp of the oil, toss to coat, and place in a 400-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until the eggplants are soft but not completely cooked.

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saucepan. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds and toast until they start to get darker. Add the peanuts and toast until the peanuts start to get lightly golden. Remove to a plate.

Add the coconut to the skillet and toast, stirring constantly, just a few seconds until the coconut starts to get lightly brown. Don’t leave the coconut on the stove unattended because it will burn in an instant.

Place the toasted spices and peanuts, coconut, jaggery, and the remaining turmeric in a blender. Add enough water and blend into a very smooth paste.

Heat the last 1 tsp of oil in the saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the sliced onions. Saute them until they start to brown. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another minute.

Add the ground spices and when the come to a boil, add the eggplants. Add more water if the sauce is too thick.

When the sauce boils, turn down the heat so it just simmers, slap on a lid, and cook about 10-15 minutes or until the eggplant is really tender.

Add salt to taste. Garnish with some fresh coriander.

Serve hot with some chapatis, rotis, or with some dal and rice.

***

One of the reasons I’ve been slow with the blog of late is that I’ve had a lot on my mind with my cat’s illness. Pubm, my lovely calico cat who many of you already know, was diagnosed in March this year with a poorly differentiated sarcoma that was growing rapidly. We were told that she had at best six months, at worse, two.

The last few months have included several rounds of chemotherapy for Pubm but in June we decided to stop the chemo because the tumor stopped responding to it. Last week her oncologist told us it was time to say goodbye.

It is hard to say goodbye to any animal you love, although it is also usually inevitable, but in Pubm’s case it is almost impossible because I’ve never known a cat so vibrant and curious and, in a single word, perfect. She came to us at the age of six, with her sister Pie, and although we had no intention of adopting a cat (we were at the shelter to pick up a foster dog) the only reason we did was because the shelter volunteer told us Pubm and Pie were going to be put down the next day– two of millions of healthy, young cats who will be put to sleep each year in the United States because there is no room for them at overflowing shelters, and no home that is willing to take them in.

Pubm and Pie came into a home dominated by three dogs, and while Pie has never quite overcome her unease around the larger canines, Pubm slowly but surely managed to put them in their place and find her own. Desi calls her Queenie, because she literally ruled our household with her beauty, charm, and ability to win over just about anyone, cat-lover or not.

We have not yet been able to bring ourselves to make that call to the veterinarian to schedule an appointment, but we know we must at some point, perhaps sooner rather than later.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Comments

  1. Yasmin says

    This year we also had to say goodbye to our Buttons at age 12. It was the hardest thing I have had to do so far in my life, to make the call to the dr. Not a day goes by that I do not think about her.
    My heart goes out to you and yours. Pubm is a beautiful soulful cat. Much love to her.

  2. says

    Thinking of you thru this rough time Vaishali. Have had to put down 2 dogs before….so trust me I know exactly what you’re going thru. Pubm is a lucky girl to have found you both! Thats the toughest thing about having pets…you know you will always outlive them. Hang in there, you’re doing whats right for her…..sending you lots of energy and love!

  3. says

    Oh, Vaishali! I’m so sorry to read about Pubm. She is SO beautiful. How lucky you are to have her and Pie in your life. It is so hard to say goodbye. It never gets easier (and thank goodness it doesn’t, because it would mean our love has boundaries).
    I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, so I am glad that we as humans have the ability (it’s our duty, really) to make the decision to end the suffering of our four-legged family members. My thoughts are with you. Take care!

  4. says

    I am so sorry to hear that your beloved Pubm will have to leave you. We had to do the same with our beloved George 4 months ago. Know that you are in my thoughts as a hard but loving decision is being made by you. She’ll be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge. HUGS!

  5. says

    Thank you for the wonderful eggplant recipe. I love eggplant, but my boyfriend is biased against them due to some bad run-ins as a kid. I’ll try this on him!

    And I’m so sorry about your kitty. Best wishes to you and your furry friend.

  6. says

    i am so sorry to hear about Pubm. Take care. Hugs and prayers for all of you.
    Love that picture of Pubm in the drawer.

    You got the eggplant totally right! I totally dislike undercooked eggplant. Thanks for the recipe and thanks for sharing Pubm with us.

  7. says

    Pubm is a beautiful cat, I know what you are going through. My daughter Chali and her spouse have 10 cats, 3 are sick. My BW and I have 1 dog Lucy, who is 12 and getting sickly.
    On a happier note, I like eggplant, but always salt the slices and let them sit 10 minutes and then wipe them dry. I can’t get spherical shaped eggplants, but can get regular, I want to make this.
    It sounds delish, I like the groceries.

  8. says

    Geekgirl, Yasmin, Manasi, Thank you for your kind words. I do hope I will find the strength when the time comes.

    Manju, thanks!

    Kamini, Thank you. It is indeed an inevitable part of having pets– being able to say goodbye. I appreciate your support.

    Jeannie, thank you. I do agree in principle about quality over quantity. But she still has some good days– yesterday she wanted to climb up on the window sill and watch the birds. So although the doctor thinks she might be ready to go, I do wonder if she is. After all, humans go through their last days with a lot of pain and suffering and we don’t put them down.

    Glo, sorry about George, and thank you for your kind words. I do believe I’ll have a big welcoming committee waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge. :)

    Connie, hope your boyfriend likes it! Thanks for your kind words for Pubm.

    Richa, Thank you.

    Rinku, sorry to hear about Scooby. And yes, they are family which makes this so hard.

    Anthony, a big hug to Lucy– I have a Lucy too! Wishing all the luck in the world to your Lucy, and your daughter’s cats. And that’s a great tip to draw out the bitterness of eggplants. Thank you!

    Priya, Get Skinny, Thank you!

    Adam and Theresa, Thanks. Pubm sends a hug.

  9. says

    Hi Vaishali, it is really hard to go through these kind of situations one after another. Pubm is a beautiful cat and one of the luckiest one to have you as parents.

    Nice recipe … I will definitely try it this seasons.

  10. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali,

    Feels sad to know about your pussy…
    Although I have never had a pet; departing is certainly a painful experience. M sure she is going to have a good life after life.
    My husband too is a lover of eggplants and can have them in any form. M sure he is going to relish this one too.

    Thanks, and God bless u guys.
    Nisha.

  11. says

    Vaishali… Pubm and Pie are so lucky to have found a home with you. And ur just as lucky to know the unconditional love of so many pets! I know its hard to say good bye to a loved one, but I’m sure you will find the strength to relieve Pubm of all the pain :(
    Hugs to you and the pets…

  12. says

    Vaishali,
    Really sorry to hear about Pubm. She has had a wonderful life with you. Wish you all the best on the journey ahead.

    On another note, I love the technique of baking the eggplant. Can’t wait for some cooler weather to try this recipe.
    Tibik

  13. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali,

    Really sorry to hear about Pumb. I have never had a pet before so I may have completely missed the point – why is it necessary to say goodbye soon? God will call her back when the time comes..why not wait until then? I am sorry, it must be very hard for you already but I was hoping that may be you do not have to take that tough step after all.

    My prayers and best wishes! By the way, wonderful recipe as always!

  14. says

    Hi Vaishali,

    an eggplant recipe, terrific! you seem to read my thoughts, some may call it telepathy ;), I bought 2 medium size eggplants on Saturday at the market and I wanted to do something different with them. So, here it is, this looks amazing and I will try it!
    I am really sorry to hear about Pubm, she’s just a lovely cat. My prayers of strength and love and my heart is with you during these very though times.

    With Love,
    Susana.

  15. says

    Mints, thank you for your kind words. We are very lucky to have had Pubm in our lives.

    Nisha, Swati Sapna, Tibik, thank you. It definitely hurts when you have to say goodbye to a beloved animal, but I guess it’s part of the deal we make when we adopt them, knowing their life spans are much shorter.

    Anonymous, the question is whether or not she is suffering and in pain. If Pubm chooses to go without her cancer advancing to a stage where she is in intense pain or infected, I would be thankful. But if her cancer becomes worse to the point where her condition is agonizing and unbearable to her, the kinder thing would be to help her move on.

    Susana, sounds like telepathy indeed. :) Thanks for your prayers for us and Pubm– we appreciate them very much, and Pubm sends a cuddle. :)

    Sam, Hope they like it!

  16. Samarpita says

    Oh, so terrible. The last pic is so gorgeous and I have a special love for calicos. I have recently lost my most favorite cats who was a calico too.
    I pray for Pubm.

  17. says

    What a beautiful cat! I’ve only ever fostered kittens, but I’d love to have a cat someday.

    At home we marinate thinly sliced eggplant in chilli, salt, turmeric and oil and roast it in a single layer in a hot oven until crispy. My mum used to deep-fry eggplant before when we didn’t have an oven. Now we do, I honestly can’t tell the difference between the roasted and the fried.

  18. says

    Oh my god, I literally had tears in my eyes as I read through the post. I know how it is as pets become one in the family. I am sure as time goes by you will find the strength:) She will surely live in your memories… evergreen:)..
    Reva

  19. dara says

    sooo good! when are you publishing a cookbook? or do you already have one? i want to gift everyone i know with one! this dish was beyond delicious, as is everything I’ve made from your recipes!

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