an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Renghan Reveya: Aubergines stuffed with a peanut masala

In my previous post I mentioned my new Indian vegetarian (Gujarati) cookbook Prashad by Kaushy Patel, and this is my first attempt at one of its recipes. This aubergine dish is one of my favourite curries, and I have always been interested in learning how to make it. When I saw the beautiful stripy aubergines at Queens Park Farmers’ Market, I knew it had to be done. Of course once it is cooked you can’t tell that the aubergines ever looked like anything other than normal aubergines, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to buying interestingly coloured produce (I also bought a purple kohlrabi).

I didn’t have quite the right ingredients to make the exact recipe, so here is my attempt. Apologies for the lack of post-cooking photo, it was so unbelievably delicious that I got distracted. Seriously, it was just as good as the versions I have had in Indian restaurants, and I highly recommend it.

I had previously seen other versions of this curry that used desiccated coconut, so I thought that coconut oil would make a nice change instead of using regular oil. I have also reduced the amount of oil and sugar. The original recipe was onion and garlic free, using ¼ tsp asafoetida instead, but seeing as I didn’t have any, I thought I would use onion and garlic, especially as I didn’t have enough aubergines.

Serves 4 as part of a bigger meal with other dishes, or 2 hungry people with a little leftover if just served with rice and/or bread (I prefer chapattis to naan bread).


150g peanuts, roughly chopped (you are supposed to use unroasted red-skinned peanuts, but I couldn’t get hold of any so I used roasted, salted ones. Apparently Sainsburys are having some sort of nut crisis).
15g Demerara/soft brown sugar or flaked jaggery
2 tbsp coriander seeds (or 3 tbsp ground coriander)
2 tsp turmeric
1 ¼ tsp salt (use less if you are using salted peanuts)
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
½ can chopped tomatoes
4cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, squashed with the flat edge of a knife and roughly chopped
2-3 tsp mild chilli powder, or 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
2 handfuls fresh coriander, chopped
100ml coconut oil (In the winter the oil with be solid, and I have found the best way to melt it so that you can measure it without wasting any, is to submerge the whole jar in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes)
Little aubergines – the original recipe called for 16 baby aubergines (aw babies), but I only had 5 slightly bigger ones. This wasn’t enough, so I would suggest using 16 babies if you can get them, or 8 teenagers.
1 medium sized onion – cut in half and sliced


Put the peanuts and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle and grind until it is all broken down and resembles a coarse powder/crumbs (I use a really heavy stone one, and I definitely recommend getting one). 

Put the crumbs into a large bowl with the sugar, turmeric, salt, cumin seeds and tomato, mix together and leave to rest for a few minutes.

Crush the ginger and garlic in the mortar and pestle, and add it to the peanut spice mixture along with the chilli powder, chopped coriander and coconut oil. Stir it all up.

If you are using onions, heat oil in a large saucepan and put them on to fry on a medium-ish heat at this point. Stir from time to time, but allow them to colour.

Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the aubergines into quarters lengthways, leaving a couple of centimetres at the stem so that they stay together. Gently open them out and use a teaspoon to fill them with the spice mixture, coating all four wedges of each aubergine, being careful not to split the aubergines apart. This is a really messy job, and the spice mixture will go everywhere, so it is probably best to hold the aubergines over the bowl of marinade.

Arrange the filled aubergines in the pan on top of the onions, and cover with any remaining spicy marinade – there should be a fair amount. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, and then add in 350ml boiling water – carefully around the edges so that it doesn’t wash the spice mixture out of the aubergines. Put the lid back on the pan and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let the whole thing simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the aubergines are tender. If you are using slightly bigger ones, check the pot a few times to gently turn the aubergines.

If like me, you don’t have quite enough aubergines and a bit too much liquid, throw a handful of rice into the pot for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. The rice will cook in the delicious curry sauce, and absorb the excess liquid.

Kaushy Patel suggests that you let the dish rest off the heat for 20 minutes after it is done cooking, and then reheat before serving – to let the flavours infuse even more. I tried, but after about 5 minutes off the heat it smelt too good so I ate it straight away.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Interlude number 3 - Some more cookbooks

Its my 100th post!!

Probably for the last ten posts on this blog I have been counting, from 90 right until now, my 100th blog post. And of course people kept asking what I will do when I reach 100, how will I mark that momentous occasion? And here it is. No fanfare, no fireworks, just me talking about food. I suppose it is a fantastic achievement, but nothing really has changed. I’m still the same person, buying too many cookbooks and not actually cooking as much as I should be. Don’t worry though – I’m not going to get all reflective on you, I did enough of that a few posts back after Jewish New Year.

I really do buy too many cookbooks, and so it is probably time for another cookbook interlude, where I can tell you about a few of my exciting new purchases.

All of my favourite cookbooks seem to have a playing card in them, but I’m not going to tell you why.

Bake a Boo Bakery Cookbook – Zoe Berkeley

The Bake a Boo bakery is in Mill Lane in West Hampstead, and the baker/author of this book is gluten and dairy free, making this a very interesting baking book. The bakery also offers gluten and dairy-free afternoon teas. The book is full of really lovely recipes and is a really useful resource if you, like me, have a lot of friends with dietary restrictions. As well as gluten and dairy, there are also recipes that are sugar and egg free, as well as some that are full of all the things cakes are supposed to be full of, for ‘normal’ people. I am moving to West Hampstead pretty soon (woohoo) and really looking forward to visiting this bakery.

The scone recipe is sugar free and looks very similar to my Grandmother’s, which is always a good sign. Because of all the cream and jam, scones don’t actually need any sugar – apart from the odd raisin. And they will probably be the first thing that I make from this book (I am having trouble perfecting my scones). Other recipes that look really good include a pear and custard slice, Florentines, elderflower tea loaf, a vegan chocolate hazelnut cake, and a gluten-free passion fruit cake.

Prashad Indian Vegetarian Cooking– Kaushy Patel

Prashad is an Indian restaurant in Bradford, that came to prominence when it won Gordon Ramsey’s Best Restaurant TV show in 2010. It is a really lovely book – even the paper feels really nice. They are also really fantastic tweeters, an attribute I have recently come to really admire. The first time I flicked through this book, I got so excited that I did a little dance and probably squeaked quite a bit. I have many Indian cookbooks, but the reason why this one made me so happy was because it was the right kind of Indian - Gujarati. Kaushy Patel is from Surat in Northern India, the same region as the owners of the Indian restaurant of my childhood, and still probably my favourite – Rams in Kenton.  (Other favourites are Shayona and Pradips and anywhere on Drummond Street). This book contains all of the recipes of my favourite dishes, ones I have been searching for in other books for years.

A lot of recipes are vegan, wheat-free, or onion and garlic free, and so this is also a very useful book for those with dietary restrictions. The book also has a really handy selection of practical points and tips, with really excellent advice like:

‘Try not to cook when you are stressed or short on time – cooking should be a pleasure as well as a means to an end. And always think beautiful thoughts when you cook. Not only will it make you feel happier, but it will make your food taste beautiful too!’

Other handy hints in the book include tips on how how to stop aubergine from oxidising, or stop your dhal pan from foaming over.

The book has an incredible selection starters and Indian street food, including of Bataka vada – fried balls of potato with coriander, coconut and lemon, and a samosa chaat recipe which I am definitely going to try – this recipe was in fact the main reason why I bought this book. Other recipes that look really interesting include Vagareli makai, a spicy sweetcorn curry with peanuts, and Renghan reveya, whole baby aubergines stuffed with a peanut spice paste. It also contains at least three different chickpea curries, and chickpea curry is probably my all-time favourite curry (see here for a very inauthentic but still yummy one).

Supper Club – Recipes and notes from the underground Restaurant – Kerstin Rodgers

Kerstin Rogers runs a supper club called the Underground Restaurant, and blogs as Ms Marmite Lover – what’s not to love? Her book describes itself as ‘a homage to the secret restaurant phenomenon’. Despite her restaurant being really near where I live, I haven’t made it there yet, mainly due to incompatible timings and my lack of being able to get my act together. It is on my must-do list, as soon as I have some free time.

The book is so brilliant - before we even get the recipes, the section at the front deals with the practicalities of running a supper club or pop-up restaurant, with really interesting insights covering all the bases – from marketing strategies, taking payments, timings, to health and safety. There is also a great directory of all pop-ups all over the world.

As Kerstin is pescatarian, there are also more recipes in this book that I can eat than in usual cookbooks. Recipes worth mentioning include Butternut squash and feta filo triangles, Gratin dauphinoise with smoked salmon, chillies en Nogada and Chocolate and marmite cupcakes. There is also a recipe for butterscotch schnapps involving putting dime bars in a bottle of vodka, and sticking the whole thing in the dishwasher.

This comment on courgette flowers also gets a mention (for obvious reasons):

‘The flowers on the end of baby courgettes are girls. There is an almost gynaecological pleasure in teasing open the petals of the flower and inserting little goodies into it. It’s lesbian cookery!’

Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts – Gizzi Erskine
I’ve got a bit of a crush on Gizzi Erskine. Before she trained at Leiths, she was a professional body piercer, and so of course my inner teenager thinks that she is just about the coolest person ever. On the cover of this book she is looking coyly into the camera whilst showing off her incredible tattooed back, and hiding a massive knife behind her back. And there is even a little pattern of angry carrots in the background. It is definitely a book to judge by its cover. In fact, the entire book’s design and graphics are probably some of the best I have ever seen.

Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts is essentially a diet book – instead of the 5:2 diet, it is more of a 2:5 diet. Basically, watch what you eat during the week, and indulge on the weekends. Although I haven’t been following the diet plan exactly, I have been keeping by this philosophy for the past few months, and I think that it has, slowly, been paying off. The first half of the book contains recipes for the skinny days, and the second half of the book contains recipes for weekend feasts. To emphasize her philosophy further, only the recipes in the skinny section are calorie counted.

Recipes that I definitely want to try include:

From skinny - Black lentil soup, Low fat smoked mackerel pate and Malaysian fish stew.
From feasts - Pumpkin and cashew nut curry, Watermelon gazpacho (seriously) and Peanut butter and cornflake brownies.

Well then, there was post 100, where’s my medal?