I hated eggplants. With a vengeance. All I remember is badly cooked mushy messes that some of our cooks tried to pass off on us and me being me, its all the excuse I needed to boycott a vegetable!
“Fast forward a decade later, with parted clouds and rays of shining light from within…”
Now that the light of knowledge and grownup-ness has kindly shined upon me, I realize that it is one of those very underrated vegetables. With the right ingredients it can easily become the star of any meal – stuffed, grilled, fried… you name it. On the other hand, no amount of divine light and coaxing will ever get me to eat Brussels sprouts. That being said let me introduce today’s star – Brinjal Chutney.
Yes, being Indian, I will always call an eggplant/ aubergine as a ‘brinjal’… you say tomato, I say taaumatooo. As along as the end result is delicious, the name bears no bearing. Or so I’d like to fool myself.
Now for a quick cultural lesson on Indian chutneys: Quite different from the western version of the chutney (although they can be interpreted in the same way – as a spread or salsa), Indians eat their chutneys with rice, rotis or most popularly with idlies (steamed rice cakes) and dosas (crispy lentil crepes that are to die for!)
Mom’s Brinjal Chutney
(Modified from my grandmother’s recipe)
What you need:
1 large Eggplant
3 -4 tablespoons of Urad Dal (Black Gram)
4 Green Chilies – chopped into big pieces
2 -3 Garlic Cloves
½ bunch Coriander – coarsely chopped
1” piece of Dried Tamarind
Salt to taste
Getting down to business:
Traditionally, to prep the eggplant, you can either steam or roast it over an open flame to remove the skin. Then mash well.
While roasting the eggplant does gives it a nice smoky flavor, I like to take the easy road out and lightly slit the raw eggplant and wrap it in foil (2 layers as this will hold any juices that the eggplant may release).
Following this I pop it into an oven at 350 degrees and let it cook. Within 40 minutes, you have a beautifully cooked eggplant that can easily be peeled and mashed. All you had to do was just turn on the oven! Keep aside.
Heat some oil in a skillet and add in the black gram. Once it starts browning, add the garlic and green chilies. Once the garlic starts softening (this should only take less than a minute), throw in that coriander and tamarind. Lightly sauté till the coriander wilts.
Grind the garlic coriander mixture and then add in the eggplant with some salt. Blend till smooth and you’re done!
To make it extra special, you can top the chutney off with a dollop of ghee.
Traditionally, this is something that is mixed in with hot rice and ghee to create something sooo divine but I like to serve it with crackers as a dip or even spread on a slice of bread as a quick snack.
Adjust the number of green chilies as per your taste. If 4 are too spicy for you, turn it down to 2 and the same rule applies for the garlic too.
Depending on your love for coriander, you can reduce the ½ bunch I’ve specified in the recipe to ¼ bunch.
I use sesame/ gingeley oil (not the toasted sesame oil found in asian stores) but you can use olive oil or whatever you have on hand.