Hyderabad is an epitome of India’s unity in diversity culture. Very few cities in India have the privilege of having a distinctive cuisine. The Nizams governed this city for over two hundred years until 1948 and one of their princely legacies was establishing a Hyderabadi cuisine. This is a famous Hyderabadi vegetarian dish, the combination of spices representative of both Northern and Southern regions of India.
600g small round eggplants (brinjals)
75ml vegetable oil like sunflower oil
1 x 5cm piece of ginger
5-6 plump garlic cloves
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1tsp chilli powder
25g tamarind rinsed and soaked in warm water for half an hour
1 sprig curry leaf
1tbsp cumin seeds
½ cup desiccated coconut
25g roasted, peeled peanuts
25g sesame seeds
2tbsps coriander seeds
3 green chillies
½ cup coriander leaves, stems and roots
Salt to taste
Using a mortar and pestle, make a paste with ginger and garlic.
Squeeze and strain the juice from tamarind, discarding seeds and pip.
Prepare the eggplants by cutting off any dried up stalk bits. I like to retain the calyx. Make a large crisscross in each eggplant from base upwards towards the calyx. Soak the eggplants in salt water for 15-20 minutes.
Char or roast the onion or onions on open flame until the outer peels are burnt (this is messy). When cool enough to handle, peel off the outermost layer. Chop and set aside.
In a small fry pan, dry roast the coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds, peanuts and sesame seeds. When the aroma of spices is release, add the desiccated coconut, turn off the heat and fry (the residual heat in pan is enough).
When cool enough, grind the spices along with the green chillies, char roasted onion and fresh coriander. Add a few teaspoons of water if needed to make a fine paste.
Heat oil in a deep wok or kadai. Remove the eggplants from water and dry with a tea towel. Fry eggplants for a couple of minutes on each side. They only need to brown and not cook through all the way. Remove and set aside.
In the same oil, add the remaining cumin seeds and the curry leaves. Toss the ginger garlic paste and fry on medium heat without burning. Add the ground spice paste, turmeric and chilli powder. Continue frying until you can see it glistening with some oil separating.
Mix in the eggplants, salt and tamarind pulp. Pour a little water (it all needs to be submerged) as needed. Simmer till eggplants are cooked through.
Serve hot with rice or roti. Serves 6.