Tag Archives: smoky

Hot and smoky aubergine curry

18 Feb

Hot and Smoky aubergine curry

 

My nose is tingling as I begin to tell you about what I experienced last week. I taught a cookery class that shifted me emotionally.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

It was a community based cookery class, which means that it was for local Londoners and not for profit. I always, agreeably expect a mix people, from different worlds to join me in classes like this.  This time too, we had the world in our classroom; a lady, who spoke Spanish and then translated into English, used every opportunity to convey to me how it’s done in Spain. She spoke tenderly and her eyes were damp. I’m blushing when I admit, that a few years ago I might have considered this as decelerating the class but this time I felt calmly assured about this gentle lady. It turns out that she has an embolism on her lung and that she lived alone. She filled with tears as she expressed how much she looked forward to attending community classes and passionately, generously offered to sew some more of skilfully made aprons for the cookery school. She overflowed with love and told me that there are choices; show spirit and keeps busy, or not.

Hot and Smokey aubergine curry by Deena Kakaya

A gentleman who walked and talked unhurriedly made much conversation with me and as he filled in a technical term for me, which escaped my mind, I warmed to the way he spoke. I like intelligence.  It evolved with his telling me of his trekking in Africa and I told him about my mother’s family being expelled from Uganda. He told me about his brother, who despite having high-end cars and a focus on achievement hadn’t really lived.  As we surveyed spices and checked textures, he drew pictures in my mind of his sisters contrasting life in Italy, living on fresh produce from her garden and feeding many friends, around a laughing table. She has lived. He asked the question on why people should judge themselves or others, for simple choices in life when it is so short.

 

From a chirpy massage therapist to a man with no fixed abode, from a seasoned cook from Mauritius to someone who gave me the first smiles of acceptance after three cookery classes together. You know the interesting thing? Often in these classes there are light quips about the menu being entirely vegetarian or some vocalised disassociation with spice. There are sometimes questions, ‘so you aren’t from India then’, but in this class, there was simply overwhelming and unanimous praise, encouragement and enjoyment. There were no leftovers. There were empty plates. There were huddles around an iPad as they all perused my blog with intrigued eyebrows and sighs.

‘They really like you Deena, you’ve really given them something today, they loved the food too’, the cookery school manager stopped to tell me. It wasn’t all about the food I don’t always do good things. Sometimes I do darn silly things. But in that class, I took some lessons and I felt emotionally shifted.

 

One thing they did note is that it’s not all curry on the site, even though we did cook a couple during the class. These days, I’ve been hankering for something with a proper kick. I fancied a curry with attitude; a curry that isn’t weakly vegetarian as so often and unfortunately vegetarian curries are described to be. I have been visualizing thick, red gravy with some deep and juicy tones….you get the idea. For me, aubergines can go badly wrong if they are watery, understated and without garlic. Luckily this dish is none of those.  Where does the fusion come in? Well, as I served this dish the smell in Mexican but taste is Indian because I use Mexican guajillo chillies as well as chipotle to give smoky aromas and a total block red colour. This is not one for the faint hearted.  This is a bold curry, it’s alive.

 

Ingredients to serve 4-6

Two large aubergines

7 desert spoons of plain yoghurt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

3 dried chipotle chillies

2 dried guajillo chillies

3 tbsp. cooking oil

¼ tsp. mustard seeds

One large onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

6 green cardamom pods

6 cloves

6 cloves of garlic

Salt to taste

350ml water

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. smoked paprika

 

Method

  1. Cut the aubergines into large cubes and marinate them with the yoghurt, ground cumin and coriander. Leave them in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Take the chillies and gently heat them on a non-stick pan and let the aromas release before soaking them in the water for 30-40 minutes.
  3. Once the chillies have soaked, grind them to a paste with the garlic and then leave it to a side.
  4. Heat the oil and add the bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves and cardamom pods. Allow the seeds to pop and then add the onion and salt then soften the onion until it is lightly golden.
  5. Add the chilli and garlic paste and fry for a minute until the oil surfaces.
  6. Now add the aubergine, with the marinade. Sprinkle in the paprika and lemon juice. Turn the flame to a low level and cook the aubergine for 5-8 minutes before adding the water.
  7. Now simmer the aubergine for 45-50 minutes until the aubergine is tender and the curry gravy is thick.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

25 Jun

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Throughout my 20’s I had infrequent contact with a self-indulgent and woeful lady who recurrently stressed to me that having children is the hardest thing in the world.  She meant raising them. She would stand over me as I slumped into the sofa, and she wafted an overstating finger above me whilst popping eyes glared at me, ‘it’s so hard’. I focused my eyes on the coarse hairs that grew under her chin and listened. I nodded as she told me how there is immense and overflowing love but there is no time even for a facemask or money left to buy clothes. I looked over at my husband and my expression clearly whispered, ‘I will still buy clothes’.

But look, I thought, people all over the world are popping them out. People in towns, cities and remote villages manage it and educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old…people all over the world and for as long as time has existed have been having children. So really, come on…

As my little one played with his friends in our garden and I looked at his sweaty little face reddening underneath layers of gritty sun cream. Underneath the wide forehead he gets from his daddy is a face that is so much like mine but that’s not the thing that sinks my heart and ties it in a knot.

Sweet, sour, spicy, nutty, smoky, crunchy roasted aubergine salad

Tiny friends rushed around busily and purposefully with his toys as he watched. One snatched his ball as he watched, as kids often do at this age. My little one let her and decided to go and water some plants instead until another friend announced that he would do it instead. But that was OK and my two year old headed for the trampoline but alas his was bounced off. He quietly returned to me and tucked himself under my arm, ‘mumma I want my ball, it’s mine’. The bitter-sweet irony, as I could almost feel the sand under my feet on a school trip. I felt the pressure inside, even as a toddler as I was worried that my parents would be disappointed that I wasn’t as lively or vivacious as the other children or lacked the confidence to climb through the tunnels or jump off the bars as they were doing. I remember sitting near the teachers and watching the sand tumble through my feet and clearly feeling that somehow there was a waste here but I was too young to really understand the concept of money. I know I should talk to guests when they arrived at our home, when my parents told me to even more so, but I was too shy to make conversation and just willed them to turn their loud and animated interrogation off.

And here we are again. A nice boy that I made nice, to some degree, as his primary carer…but now, how to instil some personal robustness or survival instinct in him? At what point do my own experiences of the world become his perceptions? I don’t want my experiences to dirty his mind…and for someone who wouldn’t talk look at me now…I talk a lot, in front of crowds.

Here is to the bitter-sweet, hot and cool of life. A salad that tingles and zings with each mouthful of crunch from the beansprouts and alfalfa, heat from the chillies, silky smoky aubergine, nutty almond bites and sweet kecap manis. It’s loaded. I like loaded. Juicy orange and green tomatoes burst in the mouth…it’s all going on in this healthy plate. Life eh?

Ingredients to serve two as a main dish or four as a side dish

3 medium-large aubergines

4 good pinches of alfalfa sprouts

A couple of handfuls of almonds

100g beansprouts

An onion, thinly sliced

100g orange tomatoes, sliced

100g green tomatoes, sliced

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

The dressing

10 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

6 tbsp. kecap Manis

3 tbsp. sriracha sauce

Method

  1. You will need to coat the aubergines in oil and roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are shrivelling and soft enough to pierce. Allow them to cool before removing the skin and scooping out the pulp and mash it lightly on a large plate.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions, beansprouts and almonds and stir fry 3-4 minutes and then turn off the heat.
  3. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients and smoothing any lumps with a fork
  4. Layer the aubergine pulp, then on top add the tomatoes, beansprouts mixture, alfalfa and the drizzle over as much dressing as you like.
  5. Serve with flatbread and share (try).

 

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