This is one of our most beloved family dishes. It is very much in the Hyderabadi style, where North Indian and South Indian seasonings are combined. Over the years, I have simplified the recipe. Here, you may use the long, tender Japanese eggplants or the purple “baby” Italian eggplants or even the striated purple and white ones that are about the same size as the baby Italian ones. Once cut, what you are aiming for are 1-inch chunks with as much skin on them as possible so they do not fall apart.
Serve this hot with meat or vegetable curries, rice, and dal or serve it cold, as a salad, with cold meats, Indian (see Chicken Karhai with Mint) or Western. I love it with slices of ham. serves 4–6
4 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/8 teaspoon ground asafetida
1/2 teaspoon skinned urad dal or yellow split peas
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 pounds slim Japanese eggplants, cut crossways into 1-inch segments, or “baby” Italian eggplants cut in half lengthways and then crossways, into 1-inch segments
2 medium tomatoes, grated (see page 289), about 1.25 cups
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
¼-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pour the oil into a very large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the asafetida and the urad dal. As soon as the dal turns a shade darker, add the mustard, cumin, nigella, and fennel seeds, in that order. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, add the onions. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the garlic and the eggplant. Stir and fry for 4–5 minutes or until the onions are a bit browned. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, salt, and cayenne. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook about 20 minutes or until the eggplants are tender, stirring now and then.
Excerpted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey Copyright © 2010 by Madhur Jaffrey. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.