Stuffed Eggplant in Curry and Coconut Dal
Excerpted from Ottolenghi Flavor
Only two ingredients—lemon and milk—are what it takes to make paneer at home. It’s an experiment worth trying (it certainly feels like conducting a chemistry experiment), both for a sense of achievement and for unrivaled freshness. Yotam has published a recipe for it in the Guardian newspaper, but many others are also available online. If you buy your paneer—which makes the most satisfying filling for the grilled eggplants here, as it soaks up the coconut sauce—try to find a soft variety, which has a texture like compressed ricotta. Other varieties, which are harder and slightly rubbery, are more suitable for making vegetarian tikka kebabs, but they will also do if that’s what you’ve got. For a vegan option, use extra-firm tofu. Try to get a good-quality, chunky Indian mango pickle for this.
Both the eggplant slices and the lentil sauce can be prepared the day before, if you want to get ahead. In fact, you can make the whole dish a day ahead, up until before it goes into the oven, then chill in the fridge and just bring to room temperature before warming up.
The coconut dal is a great recipe in its own right. Double it, if you like, and serve with our curry-crusted rutabaga steaks and some rice.
Yield: 4 Servings
- 3 large eggplants, stems removed, each eggplant cut lengthwise into 6 × ¼ inch/½cm-thick slices (6 cups/750g)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- table salt and black pepper
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (12⁄3 cups/250g)
- 1½ oz/45g fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 red chiles, finely chopped
- 30 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp medium curry powder
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- ½ cup/100g dried red lentils
- 1 × 13½-oz/400ml can full-fat coconut milk
- 2½ cups/600ml water
- ¾ tsp table salt
- 8 oz/220g paneer (or extra-firm tofu), roughly grated
- 2 limes: finely zest to get 1 tsp, then juice to get 2 tbsp
- 1½ oz/45g hot mango pickle, roughly chopped, plus more to serve
- ¼ cup/5g cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more to serve
- table salt
- 3½ oz/100g large (not baby) spinach leaves, stems removed (2 cups/60g)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/220°C fan. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, toss the eggplants with the olive oil, ¾ tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until softened and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- For the dal: Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for 8 minutes, until golden. Add the ginger, half the chile, and half the curry leaves (if using) and cook for 2 minutes, then add all the spices, tomato paste, and lentils. Stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour into a 7 x 11 inch/28 x 18cm baking dish and set aside.
- In a small bowl, toss together the paneer, lime zest, 1 tbsp of the lime juice, the mango pickle, cilantro, and ⅛ tsp salt
- Place one spinach leaf on top of each slice of eggplant. Put a heaping 1 tsp of the paneer mixture in the middle, then roll up the eggplant, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the filling is encased. Put the eggplant roll seam-side down in the lentil sauce and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, spinach, and paneer. You should end up with about eighteen rolls, all sitting snugly in the sauce. Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged, and bake for 15–20 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pan on medium-high heat. Add the remaining chile and curry leaves and fry for 1 minute, until the curry leaves are crisp and fragrant. Spoon over the eggplant rolls, drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp lime juice, and serve with cilantro sprinkled on top.
Excerpted from Ottolenghi Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Copyright © 2020 Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage
Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.