Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An unexpected break from blogging

Friends, blogreaders, passersby,

This is just a short note to say that I have been in India the last few days and will be here for some more time, so just like my trip, I had to take an unplanned blogging break.

Hope to catch up sometime eventually, but right now there is too much going on. Even though I visit India almost every year, there are things to learn and unlearn and every year I see some more changes. Stay tuned for details later.

Have a Happy Diwali!

Diwali diyas

Our Diwali lamps ready to be placed around the house

Sunday, October 14, 2007

White Eggplant and Potatoes with Garlic and Cilantro

The eggplant tales continue

As far as possible, I like to write a story in my posts, however short it might be; just a little something to give a sense of purpose to the dish I post about. For this one, there just isn't much to say. The recipe itself is based on some random recipe from the web that I copied down years ago (hah, copied down?) and then it underwent some experimentation and changes until it established itself in my permanent repertoire.

It is a simple vegetable dish, that needs a few basic ingredients, and depends solely on the quality and taste of these vegetables and herbs to shine. The only dry spices used are mustard seeds and turmeric and I think one could even leave those out. It is a slight balancing act to make sure that both the potatoes and eggplant cook just right. If either of these gets cooked sooner, it could get mushier than the other. I like to make it with baby eggplants whenever possible, but in this picture I have used one white eggplant. The white eggplant worked perfectly here, because as mentioned in my previous post it holds its shape even when fully cooked.

Cilantro is by far the most common herb used in Indian cooking, usually chopped and added towards the end. This is however one of the few Indian dishes that I make in which cilantro is neither an afterthought nor the main ingredient as in cilantro chutney, and yet it plays a very solid supporting role with its own distinct flavor. It is also one of the few dishes in which the cilantro gets cooked with other things. I would encourage you to use as much as you can here.

Sadly, the dish doesn't even have a proper name to it, and I think the original recipe was called something very generic like green masala vegetables. So I call it 'Eggplant and Potatoes with garlic and cilantro', which is so descriptive that it could as well be a one-line recipe. What's in a name though, when the result is terrific. I like to eat it with fulka or poLI, just like any other sabjee, as part of an Indian meal, but it would be equally delicious as a stuffing for pita bread or other sandwiches.

White Eggplant with cilantro and garlic


4 baby eggplants (or 1 medium sized eggplant)
2 medium potatoes
1/2 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
2-4 green chilies (depending on size and preferred heat level)
1/2 – 1 cup of chopped cilantro (not tightly packed, about 30-40 healthy stalks)
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste


Chop eggplant into quarters or sixths, lengthwise, and place in cold salted water. If using a large eggplant, slice about as thick as large fries (approximately 2 X 3/4 X 1/2 inches in size). Peel and chop potatoes into similar shapes and add it to the water. Slice onion into thick semi circles. Drain the eggplant and potato. Grind the garlic, chilies, cilantro in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a wide saute pan or wok, add the mustard seeds, and when they pop, add the turmeric, followed by the green paste, onion, eggplant and potatoes. Stir fry everything together on high heat. Add salt. Let the vegetables cook and change color, stirring occasionally. If required, place a lid on the pan and lower the heat when the potatoes turn golden. If the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add a tablespoon of water at a time and reduce the heat. Let cook for a few minutes more, and then just a little more more after turning off the heat. Pierce one of the potato pieces to check if it is cooked through.


Use any type of potato that will hold it shape after it is sauteed. I like to use either Yukon gold, White rose, or red potatoes here.

Cilantro is definitely the most used and favorite herb in my kitchen, and in general, in Indian food, and eggplant is an absolute favorite vegetable, so this makes a fitting entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging Two Year Anniversary at Kalyn's Kitchen, which is being celebrated with a collection of recipes that combine vegetables with herbs. This is my first ever entry to her event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A gift of White Eggplants leads to classic Eggplant Rassa

Gifts are usually a matter of taste, and with food gifts that is twice as true (see the terrible pun?). Luckily, I have been at the receiving end of some excellent food gifts recently. Like these white eggplants, which came along with the Thelma Sanders squash, but I am finally writing about it now.

White Eggplants

I had heard and read about white eggplants in relation to the explanation for how aubergines came to be called as egg-plants, but hadn't ever seen them. These particular ones weren't as small as eggs, but were smaller than regular purple globe eggplants. To me, the best part about these was that they were grown in a farm roughly 55 miles from where I live. Oh what a treat these were! They were like regular eggplants, but somehow more delicious, slightly sweeter and creamier, and yet they held their shape when fully cooked. They were also in some way denser than regular eggplants, which means there was more volume than I expected when chopped.

Thoroughly excited by the prospect of cooking with these, I went back and forth over which of my favorite recipes I should use them in. Since I also had some late summer tomatoes, I thought I'd combine the two into a rassa, which is a fairly typical Maharashtrian stew like dish, with a spicy broth. It is a simple and almost rustic dish that depends on good hearty ingredients, that are chopped and cooked together in a large pot, but the result is a whole lot better than the sum of its parts. A rassa is usually served as part of a typical meal that would include poLIs, rice, dal, and perhaps a chutney or koshimbir.

What really delighted me in this case was that the rassa tasted so much better than usual - naturally, the only thing that could have made a difference had to be the taste of the eggplant itself, all other factors being equal. So I have been on the lookout for these ever since then, but have yet to see them around.

Vangi Rassa

White Eggplants: Rassa


1 Tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of fenugreek / methi seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 of a small yellow onion
2 small tomatoes (or 1 large)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 small white eggplant (or roughly 1/2 of a regular purple eggplant)
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon goda masala
salt to taste
chopped cilantro leaves


Chop the onion and tomato. Dice the eggplant and add it to a pot of cold salted water. Just before cooking, drain the eggplant.

Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the mustard and (optional) fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, and onion. Saute the onion for a couple of minutes, and add the tomato and chili powder. Saute briefly, and add the eggplant. Saute everything together for another minute or two, and add the water.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt, and turn the heat down, and let it simmer together until the eggplant is cooked. You could close the pan with a lid to speed up the cooking. When nearly done, there should be very little water left, but a small amount of broth that results from the cooking is desirable, and is essentially the 'ras'.

Add the goDA masala, cook for a few more minutes and then let the pan sit on the (still hot) stove for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cilantro.


Sometimes potatoes are added to this, and that becomes a vangi-batata rassa. They are diced and added along with the onion, and the quantity is variable.
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