This minty Eggplant Masala is something I threw together one weeknight when I didn't have much time to fuss with a new recipe, yet wanted to try something different.
I love mint. It's cooling properties are priceless in summer, and what's more, it's a wonderfully unfussy herb that grows with minimal care. I had planted some mint years ago, and when we moved, I brought it with me and plunked it into a corner of my backyard. It comes back year after year, giving me more goodness than I can handle. In fact, right now, it's threatening to take over the entire vegetable patch.
In Indian cuisine, mint is a commonly used herb. In our kitchen, it comes second only to coriander or cilantro in frequency of use. It's great in chutneys and marinades, but the easiest way to get a hit of minty fresh goodness is to use it as a garnish in curries and subzis. You cannot miss.
For my Eggplant Masala, I blended the mint with the other masala ingredients and cooked it. Its soothing flavor dovetailed nicely with the spices and the sweetness of the jaggery.
I also broiled the eggplant first because that gives it a velvety texture and also helps reduce the cooking time because the eggplant can cook in the oven during the time you put together the rest of the recipe. So here it is. Enjoy!
- 2 eggplants (like Japanese or Chinese eggplants, cut into ¾ cm-thick rings)
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cloves
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 1-inch stick cinnamon
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 2 medium tomatoes , diced
- 1 medium onion , diced
- 3 cloves garlic , sliced
- 2-3 tbsp jaggery (unrefined Indian sugar), grated
- Toss the eggplants with ½ tbsp oil and a pinch of salt and arrange in a single layer on a non-stick rack (you can use a baking sheet, but a rack is more effective in preventing the eggplant from sticking)
- Broil on high in the oven for between-10 minutes or until the eggplant is lightly browned and almost tender
- Meanwhile, heat half of the 1 tbsp of oil and saute the coriander, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom for about 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Drain and remove from the pan to a blender.
- In the same skillet, saute the onions and garlic until browned on the edges. Add this to the blender.
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet and toss for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften. Add to the blender along with the mint leaves. Add the turmeric, cayenne and jaggery to the blender as well.
- Blend the ingredients, adding a little water, until they make a fairly smooth paste.
- Cut the grilled eggplant rings into quarters
- Heat the remaining oil in the skillet.
- Add the ground masala and stir for a few minutes. Then add the eggplant. Simmer together on low heat, about 10 minutes, adding some water if necessary to keep the sauce slightly fluid. Add the jaggery.
- Add salt to taste. Garnish with coriander if desired.
- Serve hot with chapatis or rotis.