Meatless Monday: Punjabi eggplant curry
A roasted eggplant with a fragrantly spiced sauce.
One of the great joys of parenting is being able to do stuff with your kids, you know, like playing with them and watching them laugh. One of the great responsibilities of parenting is doing things with them because you have no choice, as this morning when I reached a stalemate with our 11-month old: either he needed to stop being so clingy for a few moments or I wouldn’t be able to get off the toilet. Depending on what kind of parent you are, you’ll find that one of these scenarios is more common than the other, and we’re totally not judging.Skip to next paragraph
We Are Never Full
Amy and Jonny Seponara-Sills (Amy’s American, Jonny’s English) run the food blog We Are Never Full. Through recipes, anecdotes and podcasts, it chronicles their borderline obsession with food from meals made at home to travels studiously built around the search for authentic regional and national dishes from all over the world.
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The same might be said of eating homegrown produce: some of it you thoroughly enjoy eating; some of it you eat because you have to. Our first real summer as more or less fully-fledged gardeners has certainly not been characterized by optimal growing conditions but we’re still finding that while there are joyous occasions when being creative with our horticultural bounty is a true pleasure, there are plenty of others when facing eggplant for the fourth time in a week becomes a chore.
Like parenting challenges surmounted, finding new and delicious ways to enjoy eggplant – of which, in truth, I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan – provides a great deal of personal satisfaction even if at the time it’s frustrating, because in both cases you emerge mostly unscathed but with a new-found appreciation of both the baby and the ingredient.
The recipe below – baigan bhartha – makes use of eggplant’s previously unappreciated attribute of being able to bind a sauce. Like its nightshade cousin the tomato, eggplant seems as comfortable in this role as any other we’ve tried with it. The smoky flavor gained through roasting is quite startling in its profundity – and it would be remiss of us if we were not to warn you that roasting eggplant over direct flame, like some aspects of parenting very young children, can lead to messy explosions. But we learned that the long-cooking and removal of skin diffuses that slightly cough-inducing, throat-irritating quality we’ve always noticed, replacing it with something approaching a sweetness, believe it or not.
First eaten at our neighborhood Indian restaurant, Kinara, this roasted eggplant and fragrantly-spiced sauce is typical of the Punjab. Best known these days among Westerners for the inimitable musical stylings of Punjabi MC, the Punjab is a region of densely-populated river valleys now shared between India and Pakistan but with a historical relationship with the Persian (Farsi)-speaking, Islamic peoples of to the north and east in Afghanistan and Iran. In fact, Punjab (Panjab in Farsi) means “five rivers”, and it is in this relationship to the baba ghanoush-eating natives and co-religionists of the Middle East that the dish’s roots lie.
Future preparations to try before either the season ends or we turn into eggplants ourselves include, of course, babaghanoush, but also other recipes from both near and far: preserved/pickled eggplant, pasta alla norma, moussaka and miso eggplant.