If you like aubergines and have a taste for spice, you’re bound to love this curry. It’s slightly tangy from the tomato and yoghurt base and slightly bitter from the combination of aubergine, spinach and fenugreek leaves, but it all gets balanced out by the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes. By all means, leave out the chillies if you don’t want any heat – it won’t affect the overall flavour, as it’s a combination of the other spices, combined with the hour-long simmering of the aubergines, that gives the depth of flavour.
Kachumber, if you haven’t heard of it, is an easy salad of tomatoes, cucumber and onion, dressed with lemon juice and a little chilli (you could swap this for ground cumin, if you like.) It’s such a simple salad to throw together, but a great accompaniment to all sorts of Indian foods.
For the curry:
300g aubergine (I used the small, thin ones, but you could use a regular aubergine instead)
200g fresh spinach
1-2 handfuls fenugreek (methi), leaves only
150g sweet cherry tomatoes
2 medium onions (about 250g)
1 large can tomatoes
100g plain yoghurt
8 cloves garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
3 green chillies, left whole but slit down the middle
2 stems limbro
1 large cinnamon stick
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. garam masala
1-2 tbsp. fresh coriander
1 tbsp. flavourless oil
For the kachumber:
1 small onion
Juice of half, or one whole lemon (to taste)
1 chilli, finely chopped or a couple of pinches of ground cumin
For the curry:
You’ll need a large pan that can accommodate all of the pieces of aubergine in a single layer. In the dry pan, toast all of the dry spices until they begin to jump and pop. Remove the spices from the pan and set aside, then finely dice the onion and fry in the oil over a medium heat, keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Meanwhile, prepare your aubergine. If, like me, you’re using the small, long aubergines, then simply remove the green tops and slice each in half down the middle. If you using one of the regular aubergines, cut it into even sized lengths, just make sure you don’t cut them too thin, as then they might turn to mush in the cooking process.
Once the onion has taken on a good golden brown colour (I hear my mother’s voice when I cook onion, ‘the colour is where the flavour is!’) you can add the aubergines, purple side down, to the pan, in a single layer.
In a blender or small processor, blitz together the tinned tomatoes, yoghurt, garlic, ginger, ground cumin and turmeric, and toasted seeds (they probably won’t all break down, but the bigger coriander seeds will) and blitz until smooth. Pour this over and around the aubergines, add a splash of water, the cinnamon stick, stems of limbro and chillies, and bubble over a moderate heat for a couple of minutes. After this time, give the pan a stir to make sure the aubergines aren’t sticking, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for thirty minutes, giving the pan a shake from time to time, and adding a splash of water if you feel like it’s drying out a bit. After this time, flip the aubergines over to help them cook on the other side.
Next, roughly chop the spinach and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Throw on top of the curry – the heat will wilt the spinach down after a few minutes, when you can stir it in. Cook for a further twenty minutes or so, or until the aubergine is soft. Stir through the fenugreek leaves and garam masala for the final five minutes of cooking. When you’re ready to serve, remove the limbro stems, cinnamon stick and chillies, and toss over the coriander leaves, roughly chopped.
For the kachumber:
Simply chop the onion, cucumber and tomatoes as roughly or as finely as you like, mix in the lemon juice, chilli or cumin, and roughly chopped coriander, then you’re good to go!