Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charred Eggplant and Peas... A Meatless Monday Special.

     Back where I come from when stuff gets charred and there's not a barbecue involved, it's not a good thing. Charring usually involved opening a lot of windows, smoke alarms, yelling and calling the local take out.."Don't Cook Tonight, Call Chicken Delight!"

    The idea of deliberately charring something may seem scary, but believe me it's a basic of many sorts of cuisines. Deliberately charring under controlled conditions is a technique. In the Indian kitchen this is called charchari, and combined with boiling and sauteing it is the finishing touch that will give your vegetables a tasty, open-fire-cooked punch.
     Vegetables are added to a pan with butter or ghee, crushed spices, and some liquid, boiled for a bit, then fried and finally charred carefully!
   A lot of different vegetables can be prepared like this, but I happened to picked up some great baby eggplants from Lunita Farm at Saturdays' Farmers Market at the Sonoma Community Center . I decided to make charred eggplant and peas. Here's what to do.

  Chop about 1 lb of eggplant into 1 inch pieces.
Place it in the bottom of a deep skillet or kadhai
Dot the eggplant with 4 Tbs of unsalted butter cut into little pieces.
Grind together:
1 Tbs of coriander seeds
1/2 Tbs of cumin seeds
mix that with :
1 tsp of turmeric
1 and 1/4 tsp of salt

3 or 4 pieces of fresh cilantro
1 large whole serrano chili (if you want to get wild you can add up to 3 of them!)
and sprinkle the whole thing over the chopped eggplant.

Add in 2 cups of water.
Bring the whole thing to a boil.

Boil it for about 3 to 4 minutes then partially cover the pan and lower the heat a bit. Cook it for about 30 minutes.

Check it every now and then and make sure the water isn't cooking down too quickly. The idea here is
the eggplant should cook down.

When the water is nearly all gone toss in 1 cup of frozen peas.
Note: if you're using fresh peas put them in at the beginning along with the eggplant.

  Keep cooking the eggplant, shake the pan occasionally so things don't stick, and cook it down until the eggplant starts to form a crust on the bottom and begins to char.
  Take the pan off the heat and let it rest for about 4 minutes or so, then stir it around gently mixing the charred bottom crust in with the rest of the vegetables.
    This is a great and "meaty" dish for Meatless Mondays. Add some rice, chapatti, whatever, and you're in business. The mildly charred taste gives a nice, smokey flavor to the eggplant balanced by the peas.
   Other vegetables can be done in this fashion, it's not just for eggplant. I'm going to be trying this technique with potatoes and green beans and anything else I can find at the Farmers' Market. It gives a great cook-out flavor to a simple pan-sauteed dish and all it takes is about 30 minutes.
  The thing I love about this dish is that when people ask "is something burning?" you can say "damn straight it is!"


  1. very elaborate recipe and interesting dish! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great idea for all the eggplant I have growing!

  3. This look delicious. Could I come over for a meal one day?

  4. @William Castle,
    float in any old time.

  5. @janis,
    wish I had something growing like that..the deer eat everything. I still have to buy my eggplant the old fashioned way

  6. I think a little bit of toastiness can add great flavors to food! Eggplant needs some flavor infused into it, so I am sure this is a great way to do it.

  7. I love eggplant, and this looks so good. I should try it.

  8. I love eggplant. It's like a sponge that soaks all flavours.

  9. @bunkycooks,
    yes, the deliberate charring effect is very tasty and gives a nice outdoorsy taste to things even if they're cooked in a pan in the house!

  10. @penny aka jeroxie,
    yes, it's one of those wonderful vegetables that's amazingly adaptable.

  11. I love eggplants but each time I cook, I eat it alone cos no one in my family likes it. Never mind, I enjoy it all alone...no one to fight with :P Love the way you cook it. Looks delicious.

  12. My God, how many years has it been since I heard that Chicken Delight jingle?! And you know it's still in my head?

    The dish looks delicious! Lightly charred eggplant is delightful stuff! I've never tried to cook Indian but your recipes are making me want to try my hand at it...

  13. Your post made me hungry, and remind me of wonderful meals in India.

  14. "damn straight it is" LOL!
    Looks great, very detailed thank you!

  15. This looks really good, I love eggplant!

  16. This does look gorgeous and I love the taste of charred eggplant. Now I'm hungry!

  17. very interesting .... like the charred bits when eating foods - when ever Mom burned foods, esp bread, she would say 'don't worry, a little extra potassium is good for you'... not sure what that had to do with burnt toast....

  18. Eggplant is a wonderful way to ease people into meatless because of its great texture. This is a fabulous dish.

  19. You are just to funny:) This looks amazing, I love these spices, and the process is intriguing. I will however take down my fire alarms for this:)

  20. this is surely mouth watering thank you for d recipe



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