Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eggplant(Brinjal) Red Curry

Eggplant red curry with coconut milk, peanut butter, schezwan sauce

We all love eggplant (brinjal / baingan /..) at home and I try to make different types of sabzi's and gravy's but they are usually from India.
Last week, while browsing the web for a recipe using peanut butter, I stumbled upon this recipe from Archana's kitchen. Knowing how much my husband loved spicy red curry, I figured, why not give it a try. I had most of the ingredients but tweaked the measurements to our taste.
There was a can of coconut milk in the pantry, a bottle of low sodium less sugar peanut butter which no one liked and some store bought Schezwan sauce. I love using schezwan sauce to flavor stir-fry vegetables, noodles or fried rice.
Garlic is something I don't use in my cooking, it was very unusual to have fresh garlic at home.  We got some cleaned garlic pods at the Fresh Farms grocery store this past week, the better half had a brilliant idea of eating them raw.  He took a bite and that was it.
The chopped garlic gave a distinctive flavor to the curry, it was definitely the key ingredient as it integrated well with the spicy red sauce and made the eggplant very flavorful. 
So here goes, a simple and easy recipe that fits right into my dysfunctional cooking alley.

  • 1 large eggplant (baingan bartha variety). Cut into 1cm circular discs, make it a half circle and cut into thin segments like you would section a pie, so each piece has the skin at the end.
  • 6 or 7 cleaned pods of garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3-4 dry spicy red chilli peppers broken in half
  • 3-4 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste
For the sauce
  • One 200ml can of coconut milk. If the coconut milk is too thick add 1/4 cup of water.
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter or 1 cup roasted peanuts ground smooth in a coffee grinder
  • 2-3 tbsp of Schezwan sauce, I used 'Ching's Secret' brand found in the Indian store.
  • 1/2 tsp grated jaggery / brown sugar or plain sugar, if needed

the brinjal is well cooked but not mushy
  1. Take sesame oil in a wok and warm for a minute 
  2. Add the halved red chilli peppers and the chopped garlic, saute for a minute
  3. Add the eggplant(baingan/brinjal) and stir well
  4. Cover and cook on low to medium heat stirring occasionally until done (should not be raw or mushed up). It takes about 7-8 minutes
  5. On low heat, add the blended sauce and stir well
  6. Increase the heat to medium, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes until the sauce starts to boil slowly
  7. Switch off the heat and enjoy with some steamed rice
Enjoy yummy red curry
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. My older daughter who will be heading out to university soon is very choosy about food and she absolutely loved it though it was spicy. you can decrease.

Notes: Use a hand whisk to blend the sauce and a heavy wok/pan with a heavy lid will generate some steam and keep the eggplant moist while cooking on a low to medium flame without making it mushy. The first time I used my light pan and the brinjal cooked very unevenly,.  I had to sprinkle water and it got mushy, it was very tasty though. :).   Next time I plan to try this curry recipe using stir fry vegetables instead of eggplant, I am pretty sure it will be delicious, too.  

Do try this recipe and let me know if you liked it.   Today, my daughter wanted the curry sweet so I added a few flakes of splenda and she loved it.  Whatever works.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nei(Ghee) Payasam

Nei payasam takes me back to childhood and the Guruvayurappan temple in  Kerala, where it's served as prasadam(blessed food).  We arrived late and got to eat nei payasam prasadam on plantain leaves served by volunteers.  The temple was having a big celebration with elephants and drums and music.
It is also made for Bhagawati sevai puja, a religious function performed for the good of the family and the home.  This puja is performed annually by my sisters family.  I remember her mother-in-law making the decadent and delicious nei payasam in a huge metal urali(vessel/pan) placed over a kerosene stove.  The whole family taking turns to stir the payasam, it was a collaborative effort and the whole family came together to help. The mere thought has me drooling for some. 

Garnished with powdered cardamom(Elaichi)

Knowing how much I loved it, mom improvised the long, hard and time consuming recipe to a much simpler one.  So here goes, Nei payasam in my dysfunctional cooking style.

  •  3 to 4 tbsp - Ghee(nei)
  •  2 cups Jaggery(grate for easy melting)
  •  1 cup water (to melt jaggery)
  •  1 cup cooked basmati rice  (any variety, cooled and separated)
  •  1/4 cup golden raisins(kismish)
  •  1/4 cup broken cashews or slivered Almonds
  •  a pinch or two of elaichi (cardamom) powder 
  1. Heat the water and jaggery and bring it to a slow boil. Allow the jaggery to melt completely, stir continuously otherwise it will burn (2-4 minutes)
  2. Continue stirring on medium heat until it starts to thicken (4-5 minutes)
  3. In another pan (wok) heat 2-3 tbsp ghee and stir in the rice
  4. Stir fry for a couple of minutes
  5. Add in the jaggery and stir well
  6. Cook while stirring continuously until the ghee starts to glisten on the surface as seen in the picture (7-8 minutes)
  7. Heat a tbsp ghee in a small pan, first roast the raisins, remove them with a spoon and add to payasam
  8. Roast the cashew in the same ghee and add to payasam. 
  9. Top with the elaichi powder and mix well
  10. Enjoy delicious Nei payasam.  It is very rich so you can't eat a lot like sweet pongal.  it will stay good for a week or two in the refrigerator 
Served and ready to eat..

Notes: You could garnish with coconut slivers roasted in ghee and a pinch or two of dry ginger powder have seen mom use them on occasion.  I like the cashews and raisins to be soft and incorporated so I add them halfway in step 6 so they could also absorb some of the moisture.