Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vankaya gasagasala kura

or eggplant poppy-seed curry. This strikes me as an odd combination, but it is, aparently, a standard Andhra-syle dish.

Indian poppy seeds are a different sort than the European variety we use in the U.S. For starters, they're white and, although it's tough to tell scale from the pictures, I think they're bigger. That's why the dish can call for grinding them to a paste when all my efforts to grind my poppy seeds came to naught. I have no idea if they taste any differently. Or, now that I think about it, if Indian eggplants taste any diferently from what I'm using. In any case, the dish turned out OK even if it's entirely different from what the author (Sailaja of the Sailu's Kitchen website) intended.


3/4 pound eggplant, peeled, halved and sliced 3/4-inch thick
2 Tablespoons oil

3/4 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

2 cloves garlic
a knob of ginger of similar size to 2 cloves of garlic
pinch salt

2 cups water
4 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds, toasted and a good-faith attempt made at grinding them into a paste
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar or that solid chunk sugar if you've got it
2 inch diameter lump of tamarind pulp, dissolved

1. Heat half the oil to shimmering over a medium-high heat and add the eggplant slices, in batches if necessary. Cook on both sides until well-browned and translucent. Set eggplant aside.

2. Meanwhile, mix the cayenne, coriander, fenugreek and cumin with a judicious amount of salt.

3. Grind the garlic and ginger into a paste with a bit more salt.

4. Reduce heat to medium low and add the rest of the oil to the pan. When the oil shimmers again add the mustard seeds. When they pop add the cumin. When those pop add the garlic/ginger paste. Cook, stirring, until fragrant or the garlic threatens to brown whichever comes first.

5. Add the mixed spices, stir and cook until differently fragrant. Add the water, turn the heat back up to high, and bring to a boil. Add the poppy seeds and sugar. Strain in the tamarind. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure nothing sticks to the pan. Be skeptical that this could possibly turn into a proper sauce.

6. Return the eggplant to the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes until the eggplant is falling apart and, wonder-of-wonders, the sauce has thickened to a gravy-like consistancy.

Serve with rice, roti, or, if it's all you've got, naan. Possibly you could get away with flour tortillas.

Not the world's most attractive dish, but curries rarely photograph well. The eggplant is meltingly soft in a thick gravy. The rich flavors of sweet tamarind and mellow spice dominate but the eggplant adds earthiness and the poppy seeds give a toasty aftertaste. Using a piece of naan as a scoop brings out the toastiness and rebalances the flavors nicely. It also hides the gritiness of all those unground poppy seeds. Also, it's pretty cool how the dish makes its own spice-oil condiment as the oil absorbed by the eggplant in step 1 are released, pick up the oil-soluble flavors and float to the top.

So, overall, tasty, but not really presentable to company.

1 comment:

Pernille said...

Try using white poppy seeds for a more beautiful appearance