Jim gave me the neatest Indian cookbook at Christmas last year – The Indian Vegan Kitchen. This is one of those rare cookbooks full of recipes that the author actually cooks in her own kitchen every day. Her cooking style is very similar to mine, too; the shortcuts she takes are the same ones I would take and the extra steps she puts in for best results are also the same ones I tend to pay particular attention to.
When I scored some curry leaves recently, I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to make with them first, Eggplant Rice Pilaf. It’s full of my favorite ingredients, so I knew I’d love it. One shortcut I took was to make the vangi bhat masala out of powdered ingredients, but if you want to make a more authentic version, this one is similar to the one in the cookbook. I also cut the salt in half and it was plenty.
Adapted from The Indian Vegan Kitchen by Madhu Gadia
- 3-1/2 tablespoons chickpea flour, preferably ground from roasted chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon mild chili powder (I used Kashmiri)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2-1/4 cups water, divided
- 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/2 pound eggplant
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 4 tablespoons vangi bhat masala
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts or cashews
Combine all ingredients. If your chickpea flour is from raw chickpeas, toast the masala in a dry skillet until fragrant and nutty. Note: if your chickpea flour is raw, it will taste astringent, while if it is already roasted, it will have a warm, nutty flavor. Recipe makes 4 tablespoons.
Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Cover in cold water and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain. Combine the rice with 1-3/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a low boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, and allow rice to cool slightly, uncovered.
Cut the eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet with a lid to medium-hot. Add the mustard seeds and cook, covered, until the mustard seeds start to pop. Stir in the curry leaves and then the onion. Sauté until the onion starts to turn golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the water and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes until the eggplant is soft.
Add the rice to the eggplant. Sprinkle the masala on top and gently fold the eggplant, rice, and masala, taking care not to break the grains of rice. Transfer to a serving dish and top with peanuts or cashews.