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Monday, November 17, 2014

Khus Khus Brinjal Curry (Poppy Seed Eggplant Curry)

I am discovering the many facets of poppy.  As a sprinkled topping on a bagel or muffin, rolled into a pastry, or used as a base for a thick rich vegan curry.  Poppy is used across the world but quite differently each time.  Not only is it used differently, but there are different types of poppy.  The blue-black is mostly used whole in Eastern European baked goods.  The white is used in Indian curries, as a topping for dhokla, and even in bhakarwadi.  The brown is used in Turkish pastries and baklava.
When soaked and ground, it becomes a luscious butter such as tahini or peanut butter.  The consistency is somewhere in between.  The one I used for this recipe is a Turkish brown poppy paste. The traditional Indian version calls for white, which is less bitter, but I just couldn't restrain myself from substituting the creamy brown paste in this eggplant curry recipe.
First of all, there is eggplant.
Second of all, eggplant is the main ingredient.
Third of all... did I mention the sensual purple lady making her decadent mid-fall appearance?
By the way, eggplant is happening.
Serves 4-5 as a side
1 kg (about 2 lb) brinjal or eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch slices and then halved
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
1 red chile, diced (I used Moroccan)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp khus khus paste (or ground poppy seeds)
1 Tbsp tamarind pulp
juice from 1 lime
1 Tbsp jaggery or cane sugar
salt to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish
slices of lime for garnish
1.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok and add half the sliced brinjals.  Cook until brown and set aside.  Repeat for the other half with 1 more Tbsp oil.
2.  In the same wok, heat the last Tbsp oil and add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds.  Cook until they start to sputter.
3.  Add the garlic, ginger, and chile.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
4.  Add the poppy seed paste, turmeric, coriander, and water.  Bring to a boil, then add the grilled eggplant slices.
5.  Add the tamarind, lime juice, and sugar.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  If it thickens too much, add more water.
6.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Depending on the poppy seeds you use, the curry will be more or less bitter.  Adjust the sugar and lime until it tastes like heaven.  This happens at a precise point.  It will taste strange.. and then all of a sudden, it will taste just like heaven.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and some more lime for your personal squeezing pleasure.
This Purple Princess curry is best accompanied by some basmati rice.  I added some roasted tandoori spiced chicken thighs to complete the thali.  Poppy seeds contain as much protein as chicken, so this can easily be a balanced vegetarian meal with dal in the thali instead of the chicken.

That purple princess has never ceased to amaze me...
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