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.
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.
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 of garlic
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 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.
- 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.
- Once the chillies have soaked, grind them to a paste with the garlic and then leave it to a side.
- 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.
- Add the chilli and garlic paste and fry for a minute until the oil surfaces.
- 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.
- Now simmer the aubergine for 45-50 minutes until the aubergine is tender and the curry gravy is thick.