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Curry: Courgettes and Japanese Eggplant

I’m a curry fiend. I love the flexibility of the composition and it’s warm, forgiving nature. It’s hard to make curry taste bad. It’s also one of those foods that gets even better the second or third day.

There is at least one dish in every culture that makes use of the odds and ends of the pantry, taking advantage of stewing and brazing methods to mingle the flavors of the ingredients while retaining their textural contrast.

Let’s meet the cast for my curry today!

  • One Japanese Eggplant
  • 3 Courgettes: Called Zucchini in the US, but Courgette is a little easier to spell.
  • Garlic: Lots of it.
  • Shallots: Optional but tasty
  • Olive Oil: A flavorful cooking lubricant. Don’t sauté with Extra Virgin. It doesn’t take heat very well, and it’s expensive! Use a lesser grade and save the good stuff for dips and salad dressing.
  • Curry Paste: Indian Specialty item. Concentrated for sauces.
  • Yoghurt: Added to pot just before serving. It contributes a creamy mouthfeel to the sauce, adds flavor, and reduces the overall spiciness.

I feel I should warn you that what follows is not a recipe for curry. In fact, I can’t accurately reproduce the dish in neither process nor product. Cooking isn’t a science experiment to me; It is a highly creative process.

Generally, I cook by feel alone. I add ingredients to taste, and cook until it’s done. I only abandon that method when I’m baking or brewing, because the portion control is truly important.

So this is what goes on in my head when I make curry:

I had never cooked eggplant and courgettes in a curry before. I’d eaten them in restaurants, and had good idea what I wanted my dish to taste like. I wanted the vegetable to be tender, yet firm enough to retain the shape they were cut into. I was really looking to get an earthy flavor from these bright-tasting veggies, so I didn’t go for the sauté right away.

First, I quartered the courgettes and tossed them in oil. I also stuffed the whole eggplant with minced garlic. Then I baked them at 425 F. I was really careful to not fully bake the veggies, because I planned to boil them afterward. I wanted them to be firm enough to retain their shape when I turn them in the pot a few times.

Ten minutes in the oven, and the eggplant is the brownish color of a tomato takes between green and red. The courgettes are bubbling and fragrant.

When the veggies are cool enough to handle, I cut everything into bite-sized pieces. I heated some oil in a large pot.

The garlic in the eggplant isn’t enough for my taste, so I peeled and sliced a whole head of garlic as well as a couple shallots. I sweated these in the pot before I added the veggies. Sweating is a cooking method similar to sauté, but the temperature is greatly reduced. The idea is to not so much cook the food, but to tease out some of the water and flavorful oils so that they can play with other ingredients and reduce the need for additional lubricant.

As I said before, the veggies had already enough cooking, so I immediately chased a small amount dilute curry paste. I believe there should be just enough total liquid to see a line rise up among the stewing chunks. If there’s more, the food will be overdone before the excess water cooks out.

Because I baked some of the natural water out of the veggies, the curry sauce rushes in and permeates the flesh with spicy flavor. Yum! I’ve got a fireproof stomach, but I like to sense the natural taste of the vegetables, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken such care to avoid overcooking them.

Therefore, I cool the fires with yoghurt. The fat the yoghurt coat the tongue, so the curry doesn’t taste quite as hot. The delicious curry is ready to serve as soon as the yoghurt is stirred in. I like to top it over some nice saffron rice, when I can afford it.

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