Mid week dinners. The ones where you’ve been out of the house for 12 hours, are dog tired and the motivation to cook is low. They can sometimes feel like a real drag. The antidote – for me at least – is to do something a little different that doesn’t take an age to make. Hurrah for curry! Big flavours, healthy and only an hour from picking up the kitchen knife to tucking in.
If I’m making South Asian food at the weekend I’ll usually go all out and fry poppadoms, make raita, cachamber and at least two or three different curries, dal, the works. But on a Monday night I just can’t be bothered. So it’s plain old curry and rice.
However, as plain old curries go, this one’s a beauty. So long as you don’t pander to the aubergine’s appetite for oil (and they’re hungry buggers) it’s pretty healthy. And the aubergine-chickpea-tomato combo is a culinary everyman, providing a solid base with which to experiment.
You could forgo the blending, garam masala and fennel and add cinnamon, coriander seeds, ground ginger afor a more North African feel. Or why not strike out in a completely different direction with smokey paprika, cayenne, cumin, some celery, carrots and okra and go all Creole on its ass?
But what I wanted was properly warming, comforting and yet punchy flavours. The sort that leave a lingering warmth in your gullet and take your brain off to somewhere hot and dusty, away from the everyday commute. And that’s exactly what a good curry does.
It helps I have a rice steamer because it means I can just chuck the rice in, add the water and switch it as soon as I start frying the paste. It then just switches off when the rice is ready and keeps it warm. But so long as you’re organised you should be able to cook it in a pan alongside the curry.
Egg, aubergine and chickpea curry
Serves 3-4, but scales well if you have a big enough pan
2 small onions – chopped
1 small bunch of coriander – leaves and stalks separated and roughly chopped
2 medium green chillies – deseeded and chopped
1 thumb of ginger – peeled and diced
1 tblsp garam marsala
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin cherry tomatoes (or regular chopped ones)
1 aubergine – quartered lengthways and chopped into 2cm pieces
1 tsp tomato puree
Half tsp each of cumin, mustard and fennel seeds
4-6 hard boiled eggs – shelled
30 curry leaves (optional)
Sunflower, groundnut or rapeseed oil
Put the onion, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks and garam marsala in the blender, add a little oil and blend to a thick paste.
Put a little oil into a wide based pan and when it’s hot add the mustard, cumin and fennel seds. When they start to pop, add the paste and stir-fry before chucking in the aubergine. Stir and fry until the aubergine starts to turn brown. I boil the eggs at this point.
Add the tin of tomatoes and the tomato paste then mix it all together. Simmer for 15 minutes, giving the pan a regular stir.
Mix in the chickpeas, the curry leaves and some salt and pepper and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add a little water if it dries out. Keep stirring every couple of minutes. Add the eggs, stir and cook gently fir a couple if minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with the coriander leaves.