It’s become almost a truism that going vegetarian makes you a more adventurous cook, and, for me at least, it has certainly been the case. Whilst my options at work have certainly narrowed – today’s ‘vegetarian pea soup’ had the most chickeny looking peas I’ve ever come across – I have found myself seeking out newer, more exciting things to cook.
Whilst I love my mother’s cooking (who doesn’t), and Indian food in general, I have rarely cooked it myself, having always made excuses about the need to invest in lots of spices that then rarely ever get used. The odd thing/forehead-slapping irony is, as my brimming store cupboard will attest, I don’t seem to have made the same excuse when it came to buying the odd spices for particular meat dishes.
My plan is to learn a recipe each week during our family Skype sessions, slowly building up my Indian cookery skills. I’ll blog each recipe (as and when I have the time!), so that others looking for something different, and most definitely authentic, can try them too. One of my all-time favourite Indian dishes is my mother’s aubergine and pea curry. It’s one of the things I missed the most once I left home and miss even more so now that I live in Norway and see my little hobbity mother even less often.
The problem is that my mother doesn’t actually measure anything out when she cooks. She learned most of these recipes as a child/young woman and has developed an uncanny skill to work by eye-measure alone, regardless of how many people the dish is being cooked for.
I’ve taken most of her ‘a bit of this’ and ‘a pinch of that’ and quantified them best as I can. The exact quantities of the spices will no doubt be changed and refined with time. As my mother was weary of my wife’s spice tolerance (which has come a long way in the 12 years we’ve known each other), this recipe is very mild and definitely on the Norwegian side of the spicey.
Aubergine and pea curry (enough for two hungry people)
- Medium-sized aubergine (around 150g), cut into cubes
- 100g garden peas (fresh or frozen)
- 2 chopped tomatoes
- 10ml sunflower oil (or alternative, though not olive oil)
- 1 large clover of garlic, grated
- 1.5cm cube of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon chilli powder
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon salt
- Fresh coriander to garnish (optional)
- Gently heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, garlic, ginger and chili powder (I only had chili flakes in the cupboard but it works just as well). If you like your curries to have a bit of a kick, I recommend chucking in a few more mustard seeds and at least doubling the amount of chili.
- Sizzle gently for a minute or so and then add the peas and chopped aubergine.
- Stir in the sugar and salt, coating the veggies with the spices, and fry for about 3-4 minutes on a fairly high heat.
- Turn the heat down and just enough cold water so that the aubergine is submerged.
- Simmer gently for about 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
- Once the aubergine has started to soften, run a fork through the vegetables to mush things up a bit (though not too much).
- Add the chopped tomato and cook for a further 5 minutes.
This dish is usually served with rice, chappatis (traditional Indian flatbread), and spicy Indian pickles. I don’t know how to make chappatis (yet) so we just had it with naan. It just isn’t the same, but my wife actually prefers naans and they are obviously the much easier option.
I made it for the first time tonight and it got the ‘it’s not the same as your mum’s but we can definitely have this again’ seal of approval from my wife, and that’s good enough for me. It was never going to be as good as my mum’s, and I doubt it ever will be, but it was pretty darned good, and will certainly stave off the homesickness for a little while longer.
Next week I’m going to learn a recipe for onion and potato curry, my second favourite dish.