Before I even start, let me tell you, that this is my version of the original, and may have you gasping with outrage to see how I’ve modified it. It is quite different from the orginal recipe. Also the pics are all bad quality phone pics. So please adjust ;)
I had never come across this dish until early 2013. The time I was in India, husband had persuaded me to keep a cook for the duration that he was there on holiday. Once he left, it made sense to have her as she was that good. Actually, I just got lazy, but let’s ignore that for a moment. So one day, she said she would make me something special. That something special was this. I had never had it before and it was lipsmackling, fingerlicking delicious. Albeit, with a lot of ennai (oil). When I mentioned this to my cook, she chided me with, ‘What Akka, ennai kathrikai will have some ennai, no?’.
Couldn’t argue with that. So until we left Bangalore, this featured quite a few times on the menu. Each time just as delicious.
When we relocated back here, I tried it out for myself. Husband hadn’t had it while in India so it was an interesting new thing to try. He loved it too, but he ate only the gravy. The baby aubergines were left untouched. Which is when I had this lightbulb moment. I decided to combine two different dishes into one. Bengali Begun Bhaja with the Tamilian Ennai Kathrikai. National integration, wouldn’t you agree :) And this process reduces the time taken to cook too.
So here’s how I make it.
1 medium sized aubergine (not the baby aubergines that are traditionally used)
2 medium sized onions
2 medium sized tomatoes
Handful of curry leaves
3 Garlic cloves (I realise as I type that I forgot this completely)
1 inch ginger
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 tsp coriander powder
3-4 red chillies or the equivalent of chilli powder
Mustard seeds and whole black pepper to temper.
Salt to taste
Tamarind paste, a little to taste.
Slice the aubergines into nice thin slices. Rub some salt, red chilli powder and turmeric into them. Or if you are lazy like me, just pop them all into a bowl, clip it shut and give it a nice shake. Keep aside.
Heat a little oil in a pan. Chop onions into cubes. Once hot, throw in the chopped onions.
Let it cook until translucent.
Then add the ginger, garlic and red chillies.
Cook for a further two minutes.
Add the two tablespoons of coconut, saute for about a minute.
Add the tomatoes and cover. Cook until the tomatoes are nice and done.
While the tomatoes are cooking, spray some oil onto a baking tray and line up the marinated aubergines.
Once the onion tomato coconut mixture has cooled down, whiz it in the blender, until nice and smooth.
Take a pan, add a little oil, pop the mustard seeds in, once they start sputtering, add the whole black pepper and then the blended gravy.
Add the salt, turmeric, coriander powder, and cover and cook for another 10 mins on low heat. I add some turmeric, but it might not be necessary if the gravy is already sour. I know jaggery is added, but I don’t add it. The coconut gives it a sweetish flavour, which is enough for us. If the aubergines are ready pop them into the gravy, cook for another two minutes and its done.
We love it with just plain rice. It is great with lemon rice! I wish I had taken a proper picture after it was done, but I was completely knackered. It tasted absolutely great though. This is one of the few curries I haven’t managed to mess up. Yet.