Pushpesh Pant’s Eggplant in Mild Yoghurt Sauce (Dahi ke Baigan)

Serves: 2

This is just such a moorish dish.

The eggplant rounds, seasoned with spices and pan-fried.

The yoghurt, tempered with the oil, mustard seeds, dried red chillies and the fresh curry leaves.

Yum.

Another cracking addition to any thali. A dish on its own. A side you really should try as part of a long Indian banquet.

Oh, the dish perfectly doubles in size. I was worried it wouldn’t, though it very easily does.

Ingredients

250gm (1 small) eggplant, trimmed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of chilli powder
Pinch of ground turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
1 1/2 tsp ginger paste*
1 tsp garlic paste*
2 – 3 green chillies, de-seeded and chopped
200ml (1 cup) natural yoghurt

For the tempering

Pinch of asafoetida**
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 – 2 dried red chillies
Sprig of curry leaves

Method

  1. Cut the eggplant into round slices. Put the ground spices in a small bowl, season with salt and add 1 tbsp of water. Mix together.
  2. Coat. Non-stick pan with a thin film of oil over a medium heat. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste, garlic paste and green chillies and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the eggplant and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring once with a wooden spatula, then remove from the pan an set aside. Put the yoghurt in another pan and mix with a little water, then bring almost to the boil, stirring constantly to ensure it does not curdle.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy-based frying pan (skillet) over medium heat, add the asafoetida and mustard seeds and stir-fry for 1-minute, or until the seeds start to splutter. Add the dried red chillies, if using, and stir fry for about 2 minutes, or until they turn a shade darker, then add the curry leaves. Pour the tempering over the yoghurt mixture, add the eggplant and simmer for a further 2 minutes, or until the yoghurt and the eggplant is hot.

* Essentially, lots of ginger and lots of garlic blended with water. We have jars of ginger, garlic and ginger/garlic paste from our local Indian grocer in the fridge for this, a pretty simple and convenient approach that doesn’t unduly undermine the flavour.

** We did a cooking class with the wonderful Ajoy Joshi of Nilgiris in Sydney and this spice doesn’t add flavour. It is for flatulence (!) and we have always skipped it.

Pushpesh Pant’s Peppery Cauliflower Curry (Gobi Kali Mirch)

Serves: 4

As part of an Indian feast, this is just so authentic.

The pan-fried mustard and cumin seeds and then the urad dal which turns crunchy and golden.

Super simple, very very good.

Ingredients

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp ural dal, rinsed and drained
500gm (1 small head) cauliflower cut into small florets
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Salt

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add the mustard and cumin seeds and stir-fry for a minute, or until they start to splutter. Add the dal and stir-fry for a further 1 minute, or until they change colour, then add he cauliflower and just enough water to cook the vegetables.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is almost done. Seas with salt, add the pepper and stir. Remove from the heat and keep covered for a further 5 minutes.

Vikrant Kapoor’s Pan-roasted Barramundi (Lasooni Tali Machli)

Serves: 4

We recently ticked another thing off the bucket list: India!

We spent two nights at the incredible Mountbatten Lodge in Ranakpur, jungles about two hours out of Udaipur. Four absolutely luxury villas, just incredible food, G&Ts until late by the fire. The local temple is absolutely extraordinary. We spent an hour and trust us, we aren’t temple people.

What an absolutely incredible country. The people, the culture, the history, the sheer size of it, the organised chaos and of course the food.

Walking through the spice markets of Old Delhi, trying the street food or eating a banquet by the fire after walking with the elephants. (Not on the elephants to be clear!)

Every meal was excellent. The spices sing. Course after course of okra and potato and eggplant and breads flat, puffed, crisped, fried. Oh, and don’t get me started on Colonial Indian food. Just incredible.

So, does Indian food in India taste different to Indian food in Australia?

Largely, yes.

It’s more unique. It’s more flavoursome. Techniques are rolled into techniques: steam, peel, fry, stuff and tandoor potatoes. Or tomatoes. As just two examples.

We looked in a few bookstores – chaos in themselves – for at least one book to take home and India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant kept coming up. 1,000 recipes to be sure.

And after a cross check with the many memorable dishes we had had over our two weeks, it was a no-brainer.

The book contains some recipes from guest chefs and this barramundi from the man behind Sydney’s own Zaafran – Vikrant Kapoor – is just excellent. Like nothing you would otherwise eat in Sydney.

This is Indian food. As in Indian food you would eat in India.

(I have adapted the recipe slightly to serve 4; the other is that I baked the fish rather than frying. It was wonderful, though frying would have its own great outcome too.)

Ingredients

4 skinless, boneless barramundi fillets
Juice of 1 lime
Vegetable oil, for pan frying
Salt

For the marinade

Juice of 1 lime
3 tsp garlic paste*
2 tsp green chilli paste
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cornflour
2 pinches of ground white pepper

Method

  1. Put the barramundi fillets in a shallow, non-metallic dish. Season with salt and sprinkle with lime juice.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and then rub the marinade all over the fillets. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. Brush a little oil on a non-stick pan and heat the pan over a medium heat. Add the fish and pan-fry for 3 – 5 minutes on both sides, or until cooked.

* 5 heads of peeled garlic blended with 3 tbsp water; or use store bought from an Indian grocer as we now do.