Curry Feast: Dhal With Aubergine (Eggplant) Fritters
The Dreaded Empty Fridge
An empty fridge is not actually always a problem. As long as you have a couple of staples on hand, there is no reason to panic or order a takeaway.
Through a bit of bad luck (long story), I was staring at a ridiculously tiny aubergine that was already looking past its best, even though it had only been delivered hours earlier. Of course, we had a dinner guest that evening, too, and there was no way one disappointing aubergine would stretch that far. Or was there?
My eyes fell on an almost-empty jar of Patak's curry paste, and the magic happened: Ideas were popping into my head. There was no need to head out to the shops, there was no need to order in—we would have an Indian-style curry feast, and it would be delicious. And here's a picture to prove it:
Give Peas (or Lentils, in This Case) a Chance
The first plan was simple: Cook a dhal (lentil curry), cut the aubergine into cubes, fry them in spice and add them to the dhal in the end. But then inspiration struck!
My "carbs drawer" is always well-stocked and produced a jar of red lentils and rice without fail. And then I spotted it: an admittedly under-used pack of chickpea flour that had probably last seen the light of day in February (when I bought it). I had a vague suspicion that pakoras are made out of chickpea flour. And pakoras are always nice in restaurants. I glanced at the aubergine again and thought this might just work as a nice fritter.
Tips on Time Management
Assuming you are spoilt for time, you can start the dhal ages before you want to eat. But if dinner needs to be on the table sooner, the whole meal can be assembled in 30 minutes.
The longer the lentils cook, the saucier and more delicious your dhal will be. It won't look like much to start with, but don't despair. If you are using red lentils, the sauce will come together in next to no time. You could use other types of lentils, as well. I have had equally good results there, but you need to factor in a bit more time.
For the Dhal:
For the Aubergine Fritters:
Red lentils (one big mug)
1 aubergine (eggplant)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin
oil for shallow frying
1 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
salt and pepper to taste
Please don't stick too religiously to the measurements given for the aubergine fritters. How much batter you need will come down to the size of your aubergine. My advice would be to try the first slice of aubergine and adjust the batter if you find it lacking in spice.
- Cooking dhal is easy: You take your lentils straight from jar to the pan and pour cold water over them, then simply bring the water to the boil. There's a white-ish foam that forms on top of the water. I've been told in the past to remove that with a spoon but honestly, sometimes when I'm pressed for time, I don't get all of it and once or twice I might have forgotten entirely to remove it—but personally, I can't really tell the difference.
- Once the water has come to the boil, add the turmeric, then you can step away from the dhal for as long as you want, provided you top the water up whenever the lentils are starting to look dry.
- Use that time to prep your aubergine. I halved mine lengthways, then cut it into crescents about 1 centimetre thick. Soak them in salty water until you are ready to use them if you want, but again, I personally don't find that this necessarily changes the taste or texture of the finished product.
- For the batter, mix your chickpea flour with water and the spices. It should be a somewhat sloppy, thin yoghurt-like consistency.
- I prefer to add my finishing touches to the dhal before starting the rice (and in this case, the fritters), but that comes down to personal preference. Slice the onion and garlic and fry them in a small-ish amount of oil until they begin to soften, then add all the spice (apart from the garam masala) to the oil and once it starts to smell amazing, add it to the dhal alongside some salt and pepper.
- Boil some rice (as simply or elaborately as you want it to be).
- Heat up a frying pan with a good centimetre of oil in it, then dip the sliced aubergine into your batter and shallow fry them. They are best served hot, so try to time it so that the rice is cooked by the time the last fritters are coming out of the pan.
- Add the garam masala to the dhal at this point.
- Serve with some yoghurt if you like and scatter over some fresh herbs (e.g. coriander) if you have some hanging around.
Using Curry Paste
I'll tell you a little secret: When I made this dish, I was feeling a little bit lazy, and you might have remembered me saying I had a little bit of curry paste still in the fridge? Yup—I used that to spice the dhal. If you are feeling too stressed to measure out spice, or you are not yet feeling confident with Indian cuisine, there's no shame in reaching for the jar.
Let Me Know How It Tasted!
If you had a go at cooking my feast, I hope it worked out for you and I would love to hear from you! I'm also more than happy to answer any questions you might have before you attempt it.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sarah