This Eggplant in Peanut Sauce is a perfect harmony of spicy, tangy, sweet and salty notes. The eggplant cooks to buttery softness in the creamy sauce. A vegan, gluten-free, soy-free recipe with no added oils.
If you have a kid — or an adult — around who will not eat eggplant, here’s the recipe to make them fall in love.
I made my monthly trip to the Indian grocery store this past weekend and stocked my refrigerator with Indian veggies, like little, round, purple eggplants, spiky, bitter, delicious bitter gourds (karela), tiny, oval methi leaves, bright-green drumstick leaves, and leafy Malabar spinach.
Around here in Silver Spring, Maryland, there aren’t that many Indian groceries, so I need to make the half-hour drive to Langley Park, Maryland, not far from the University of Maryland at College Park, my alma mater, to pick up the essentials. There’s a Patel Brothers there that sells everything you could possibly need for Indian cooking, or even Indian living, although it probably is not on the scale of some of the huge Indian markets in areas of New Jersey, California, and even neighboring Virginia which have bigger Indian populations.
There are carom boards if you miss flicking the glossy, flat striker at the black and beige wooden coins with your forefinger and thumb. Those quaint little Indian brooms made of soft grass in case you just can’t get used to the upright brooms sold here. Pudin Hara, a minty, stomach-curing potion. And wooden roti rolling boards and pins. I once found a curry leaf plant here that’s now at home in my backyard.
Then there are all kinds of crunchy, deep-fried goodies sold in packets, like sev, chakli and gathiya, sweets like kaju katli and pista burfi and jalebi. There are even Indian cookies like Good Day and Parle Glucose biscuits. And there are, of course, the essentials: dozens of varieties of beans, lentils, spices, herbs, grains, poppadums and pickles. Large bags of rice and atta, the flour used by Indians to make roti and chapati flatbreads.
Jay always has a great time going grocery shopping at the Indian store, because it usually involves a stop for lunch at Woodlands, an Indian vegetarian restaurant in the same neighborhood, where he can get his fill of pani puri, pav bhaji and gulab jamuns. The Indian store itself is filled with more delights, especially when we get to the checkout counter where the cashier has a tray of hot samosas standing at his elbow.
As filled with junk food as our Indian grocery expeditions sound, we usually come home with a loot that helps keep us cooking and eating healthy food for days to come. Like this Eggplant in a Peanut Curry Sauce.
This is an oil-free recipe, but it tastes deceptively rich because it includes nuts, of course, and sesame seeds that add more creaminess. Tamarind paste adds tang and richness, and all you need for the spice component is turmeric, cayenne, and a couple of teaspoons of that ubiquitous Indian spice mix, garam masala.
I serve this curry with a very simple jeera or dill pilaf. With a poppadum on the side, you can’t find a more delicious meal.
- 12 small, round eggplants, cut into inch-long, thin slices. If you can't find this, Japanese eggplants would be a good substitute. To keep the eggplant slices from discoloring as you cut them, immerse them in
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves
- 1/4 cup raw peanuts
- 2 tbsp cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp kasoori methi or dry fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp sugar or jaggery
- Salt to taste
Heat a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and onions to the pan with a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions start to soften. Add the coriander leaves, ginger and garlic and continue to saute.
Add the peanuts, cashew nuts and sesame seeds and continue sauteing for five more minutes. Remove all the ingredients to a blender, add the tamarind paste and a cup of water, and blend to a smooth paste.
In the same saucepan, add the eggplants, salt, coriander powder, cayenne and turmeric. Mix well, turn heat to medium-low, and cover the saucepan with a tight lid. Pour some water over the lid if you have a lid that can hold it. This helps the eggplants cook without sticking to the pan. Stir every couple of minutes, until the eggplant is soft.
Add the peanut masala paste, kasoori methi, and salt to taste and mix well. Add water if the sauce looks dry. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes to ensure nothing's sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and serve hot with rice.