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An eggplant (aubergine) dish that’s fit for a vegan king!

the final product: stuffed baby eggplants, bursting with a delicious filling and covered in a rich sauce

Well folks, you didn’t think I’d leave you this week with complete silence did you?

I have been heartened, and touched and humbled by all your comments. Thank you one and all. The show will go on!

So, what I wanted to share with you was this eggplant dish that I wrote in January of this year. For recent followers of my blog, I hope you find it interesting and for those old stalwarts, well, enjoy the ride, again!

I chose this blog firstly because the simplicity of the dish belies its taste and second, because I am often hearing from vegans who want something that not only looks good but tastes damn’d good too. And third, because it uses that gem, garam masala.

You can find the garam masala that goes with vegetables here.

And then, I enjoy this recipe because it doesn’t have onions or garlic in it which surprises so many people!

Why no onions or garlic? Because, in keeping with the Jain tradition, onions and garlic are omitted. Plants that grow beneath the soil aren’t eaten. “Amazing!”, I hear you cry, “you can make a meal fit for a king without onions or garlic; but what about the flavour? what about….?” and on and on you’ll go, finishing off with the fact that you only ever cook using onions and garlic.

But before we start another challenge . . . it should have no dairy or milk products… instead of wondering what on earth to cook your son’s girlfriend who’s coming for dinner and who, your son absentmindedly tells you at the last minute, “Oh, and by the way mum, she’s vegan.” Try this dish!

People often think that vegetarian (not to mention vegan) meals are solely a plate of sad-looking vegetables served without  meat. How wrong they are!

Or people think vegan cuisine is some sort of faddish macrobiotic meal that you need to go to a wholefood store to buy all the ingredients you’ve never heard of, or used before, and probably never will again.

But there must be something to the vegan diet that the Jains have been eating for thousands of years! Come see.

So, here is my version of a dish called ‘stuffed eggplant’ that the French call aubergines farces and the Italians melanzane ripieni alla Calabrese. My dish is called bharleli vangi which hails from the coastal region of Maharashtra in Western India. I assure you that once you make this, and your friends eat it, the other two will become history!! Believe you me. For a single page version of this recipe, click stuffed eggplant recipe.

Step 1

What you’ll need for the filling, starting clockwise from the 12 o’clock position : salt, vegetable oil, bay leaf, ginger paste, ground turmeric, chilli powder, vegetarian garam masala, desiccated coconut, chopped tomatoes. Outside the ‘clock’: baby eggplants, chopped coriander and lemon juice”

step 2

vegetarian garam masala

step 3

set aside the bay leaves

step 4

grind all the spices (apart from the bay leaves) for approx. 15 seconds

step 5

the ground spices should have the texture of coarse sand

step 6

add 1 tablespoon salt to 1/2 litre of tepid water in a large bowl to immerse the deseeded eggplant

step 7

slice top off the eggplant

step 8

score the diameter of the circle using the tip of a sharp knife

step 9

scoop out the eggplant seeds [the scored circle will prevent the eggplant skin from tearing

step 10

scoop out the seeds until you can insert the teaspoon one inch into the eggplant’s length

step 11

in total, remove about 1 teaspoonful from each eggplant

step 12

this is how the eggplant should look after removing its seeds

step 13

place the scooped eggplants into the bowl of saltwater you prepared earlier – this will reduce the bitterness of the eggplant and prevent any discolouring of the inside

step 14, prepare the filling

add 1/2 cup of polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan

step 15

when the oil starts to smoke, add the two bay leaves

step 16

add 1 tablespoon of the ginger paste

step 17

fold in the ginger quickly

step 18

reduce the heat and add the turmeric and fold (note the vegetable oil base is becoming golden)

step 19

add 1 tablespoon chilli powder and fold

step 20

add the vegetarian garam masla and fold

step 21

add 11/2 cups desiccated coconut and fold

step 22

add 1 teaspoon  salt

step 23

remove 1/2 mixture and set aside in a small bowl for the filling. The rest will be used to make the sauce!

step 24

add chopped coriander to the small bowl for the filling and fold

step 25

dry each eggplant using a clean tea-towel

step 26

with a small spoon, scoop up some of the filling and insert into each eggplant

step 27

place the filling into each eggplant

step 28

press down the filling firmly with the teaspoon

step 29

once stuffed, set aside the eggplant and repeat for each remaining eggplant!

step 30, cooking the stuffed eggplants

add 3 tablespoons of polyunsaturated vegetable oil to a hot frying pan

step 31

when the oil is hot, place the eggplants in the frying pan

step 32

turn the eggplants frequently to ensure each side is evenly cooked

step 33

the eggplants’ skin will change colour when it is cooked and it will become crisper

step 34

pour hot oil over the eggplants

step 35

the eggplants will soon look like this

step 36, slow cook the eggplants so that they cook on the inside

cover the frying pan to cook the eggplants on the inside

step 37

cover the frying pan and cook over low heat for ten minutes

step 38

when you remove the lid, watch out for the steam!

step 39

your eggplants will now be cooked

step 40

a close-up of the cooked filling

step 41

check that each eggplant is cooked – a knife inserted should slide through like butter

step 42, prepare the sauce,

return the frying pan with the remaining mixture added onto a medium heat and add chopped tomatoes


fold in the chopped tomatoes

step 44

add any remaining filling and fold

step 45

fold until the oil comes away easily from the sides of the pan

step 46

add 4 tablespoons of water, or vegetable stock, and fold [you want a sauce-like consistency

step 47

fold till  mixture comes to the boil

step 48

place a banana leaf on a plate

step 49

place sauce on the banana leaf

step 50

stand each eggplant in the sauce

step 51

add all the eggplants

step 52

add remaining sauce on top of the eggplants

step 53

add 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice to bring out the aroma of the dish

step 54

serve with a chappati or bread of your choice

You may also try this dish with baby cucumbers or baby courgettes instead of the baby eggplants!!

Trust me, cook it for a meat-eating friend who thinks vegan food is for rabbits. They will be amazed.

Happy cooking! And if any of you have any trouble, hints or anything you want to say about this dish, please let me know at the end of this blog! I’d particularly like to hear from our Jain cousins, or our vegan friends who’ve made either this, or any other, recipes and what they’ve found good about it. I’d also be amused to hear from you meat eaters out there who would usually baulk at a vegan meal and see what you think of it. So, get cooking and typing and let the feedback (no pun intended) begin!

There, it’s good to keep going, isn’t it? Happy cooking folks!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!

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