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Maharashtrian Smoky Aubergine, Yoghurt and Red Onion Salad

There are basically two kinds of people, those who hateaubergines and those who love them although I must admit that I encountered more haters in India than the UK. I am fond of aubergines but the only time I truly became fed up with them was when I spent a year in a Gujarati village for my PhD fieldwork and the only vegetables that I could easily procure were aubergines and potatoes.

Aubergines come in different shapes and sizes and are prepared in a variety of ways all over India. This recipe is for the large purple variety which is widely available in the UK. In Maharashtra, we make them into a salad or “Vangyacha Bharit” with yoghurt, whereas in North India it is usually made with tomatoes.

This dish works well as part of an Indian meal. In Maharashtra it would be served with several other dishes whereas in Punjabi homes it is not uncommon to see a meal with only rotis and Bharta.

Serves: 4       Cooking Time: 30 min

You will need:

  • 2 large purple aubergines. Choose ones that have a nice shiny and blemish free appearance. Check that there are no holes, particularly near the stem as that usually indicates some kind of caterpillar infestation. Also choose ones that are feel light rather than heavy (this is a learned skill and comes with practice) because heavier ones tend to be more mature and with more seeds.
  • 1 medium sized red onion
  • 1 small bunch of coriander leaves
  • 1 cup of plain yoghurt – homemade is best but otherwise Greek yoghurt is fine
  • 1 hot green chilli
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt depending on your taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 turmeric powder
  • pinch of asafoetida (optional) – I like using SSP Asafoetida as it has a stronger flavour

Method:

Wash the aubergines. Place them on a gas burner on your hob one at a time and roast them on a medium open flame, rotating once every minute until all sides are equally roasted.

The easiest way to do this is to grasp them by the stem, but you may want to use tongs. The skin should get burnt as this adds the smoky flavour to the dish. If you don’t have a gas hob or if you are not comfortable roasting them on an open flame, put them under a grill. When roasted, the aubergines should look like this.

Leave the aubergines to cool in a dish. You will notice a viscous yellowish liquid oozing from them. That is perfectly ok and you should discard that when you move to the next stage. While the aubergines are cooling, chop the onion, coriander and chilli as finely as you can. When the aubergines are cool enough to touch, remove the skins. Some bits will remain on the flesh but that is fine. Now coarsely mash the aubergine in a bowl with a potato masher and mix the chopped onion, coriander and chilli with it. Add the yoghurt and salt.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan. When very hot (but not smoking hot) add the mustard seeds. You can test whether the oil is hot enough by adding a couple of seeds – they should pop immediately. The mustard seeds will start to pop and while that is happening, add the cumin seeds. Turn the heat of the hob down (all of this is best done on a gas hob as the heat level can be changed quickly, but if you have an electric hob just remove the pan from the heat), add the turmeric and asafoetida and give the mixture a stir. Now pour this hot oil mixture over the aubergine and yoghurt mixture.

You will hear a loud sizzle and it is important that this happens as it will disperse the flavours throughout the dish.

Your Smoky Aubergine, Yoghurt and Red Onion salad is ready to serve!

 

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