Recipes from Nicolas Ghirlando : Fish fingers to Friday nights.

Let baigans be baigans

Rasedar Baigan (Hindi for saucy aubergine)

The more I cook, perhaps the older I get (or is it tireder), the fewer ingredients I want to use in a dish. And the simpler the food I’m making, the more delicious it seems to be.

This week it’s been a case of taking a vegetable and using that as the starting point for a meal. A little more thinking has had to be applied rather than thoughtlessly going with the usual starchy suspects you reach for on a rapidly darkening Tuesday evening.

As if dealing with the sad acceptance that we don’t live in an endless Swallows and Amazons summer wasn’t enough, now we have to start eating properly again. No more cream teas and cake for the evening meal. Out has gone the pasta, rice and potatoes that form so many daily meals, and in, the sad acceptance that we are no longer inhabiting our 20 year old bodies.

But it need not be dull as we slip headlong into turnip season. We are still heavy with aubergines, broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes and sweetcorn among other things. The salads are fading, but my appetite is growing. And as we lose nearly two hours of daylight over September’s delicate and gentle colour change, we can start to get bolder and deeper with flavours.

This recipe is based on the gloriously named Pushpesh Pant’s ‘curried aubergine in coconut sauce’, which he says is from India’s ‘coastal region’. So just a small area then. I’ve added saffron, almond flakes, green chillies and coriander to mine to pep things up a little.

Rich and exciting, it’s texture is indecently silky, as if Liberty’s had opened a dodgy Soho alleyway silk scarf shop. We had it twice this week, the juices mopped up with spiced chickpea flatbreads. I’ve still got one more aubergine in the fridge from the veg box, so we haven’t seen the last of this in our house.

Ingredients
1 medium-sized aubergine
1tsp asafoetida
1tsp chilli powder
1/2tsp turmeric powder
200-240ml coconut milk
A sprinkle of flaked almonds
A pinch of saffron
A small green chilli, sliced thinly
Coriander leaves to garnish
Salt and pepper to season
Groundnut, rapeseed or vegetable oil to fry. And plenty of it

Method
Mix the spices together in a little dish or ramekin with enough water to make a fairly thick paste.
Trim and slice the aubergine into discs roughly 1/2cm thick
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and fry the aubergine in a couple of batches until golden on each side, having seasoned with a generous hand. Set each batch aside on a plate until you have finished.
Add the spice paste to the pan and fry for a second or two, stirring well so it breaks up a little. Add the coconut milk and mix well until the spices dissolve into it, giving it a golden amber colour and releasing its aromas.
Gently add the aubergines back to the pan and simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Don’t cook them for too long or they will collapse.
Sprinkle with the green chilli, nuts, saffron and coriander, give a good twist of pepper and serve hot.

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