This is a wonderful Punjabi dish of smoked aubergines cooked with onions, tomato, hot green chillies and cumin seeds. The aubergines become smokey from the way they are cooked. They are rubbed with butter and set over a flame until the outside is charred. The skins go charcoal black, and cracks when you tap it. This is then scraped away so the flesh can be cooked with the rest of the vegetables, producing a beautifully creamy and silky textured dish. It sounds very involved but this dish is in fact quick to make as there are so few ingredients.
I learned this dish watching two Indian ladies prepare it on a brilliant programme, called TV Dinners, that was on years ago on channel four. Presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall he would visit enthusiastic, and often eccentric, cooks from around Britain who were preparing a dinner party for their friends and families. The two ladies were so excited about the food they were cooking and it just made you want to eat Indian food. This dish has now become part of my curry repertoire. I like how simple it is, yet it is also complex with the smokiness and buttery texture of the aubergine. There are numerous variations of this dish from all around India and Pakistan, and much further west. Interestingly in south India they have a dish like this, except the aubergine is mixed with raw vegetables, resembling something more like baba ghanoush.
Traditionally this would be cooked in a karahi, I use a wok which works very well. This will serve four people generously, if served alongside other dishes as part of a large Indian meal.
Unsalted butter for rubbing
1 medium to large onion
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into 1cm dice
3 green chillies (hot), sliced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot chilli powder
4 – 6 tbsp cooking oil (I like to use sunflower oil)
Lots of fresh coriander
Rub the aubergines with butter liberally. Put them over a gas flame, on high, turning them occasionally until all the skin is blackened and cracked. Leave in a large bowl covered with a plate to cool down a little before peeling. Leaving them to steam like this helps with removing the skin. When they are cool enough to handle peel the skin off and chop the flesh roughly. Do try to get most of the skin away but the odd black bit does no harm.
Now heat the oil in a large pot, you need quite a bit of oil as the aubergine soaks it up. Add the cumin seeds when the oil is hot and let them sizzle for a minute, now add the onion and fry it for 5 minutes until it is lightly golden brown. Now add the turmeric and chilli powder, cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Now add the tomatoes and green chillies, stir, then add the aubergine flesh. Add some salt. Stir this for five minutes. Now put a lid on and cook for 10 – 15 minutes. When the oil splits from the vegetables you know it is ready. Check for seasoning, sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve.