Curry of Spinach and Eggplant

Ingredients for 6 Servings

  • 1 large, firm, shiny eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons clarified butter

For the Curry:

  • 1 large onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (3 to 4 large cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or light brown sugar)

For the Finish:

2 bunches (20 ounces) fresh spinach, washed, stemmed, and cut into 2-inch slices

Special Equipment Suggested:

  • A 6-inch frying pan
  • A 12-inch frying pan
  • A 10-inch saucepan

Preparing the Eggplant:

Wash the eggplant, cut off and discard the green cap, and cut the purple part lengthwise into even 1/2 inch slices. Cut the slices into 1/2 inch strips, and the strips into 1/2 inch dice. Toss in a colander with the coarse salt, and let drain for 20 minutes.

Preparing the Mustard Seeds:
Meanwhile, measure the mustard seeds into the dry 6-inch frying pan and saute briefly over moderate heat, until they turn gray and start popping–the heat brings out their aroma. Set aside.

Sauteing the Eggplant:

When the eggplant has drained for 20 minutes, dry it thoroughly in a paper towel, so that it will saute rather than steam. Pour 4 tablespoons of the clarified butter into the 12-inch frying pan and set over moderately high heat. When the butter is hot, add the eggplant and saute for several minutes, tossing and turning; regulate the heat so that the eggplant is no darker than a nice golden brown. When soft, turn it into a bowl and toss with the mustard seeds.

Preparing the Curry:
Heat the remaining butter in the 10-inch saucepan over moderately high heat. Stir in the onions and salt and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden and soft. Add garlic and ginger, cook just a few seconds until their aromas are released, and then stir in all of the spices listed. Cook an additional minute, stirring constantly to blend spices and prevent them from scorching. Stir in the tomatoes, water, and sugar. Turn the heat to high and bring to boil.

Ahead-of-Time Note:
You could stop at this point. Cover and refrigerate everything, and bring to boil several hours later.

Finishing the Dish:
Add the spinach, bring back to boil, then stir in the eggplant. When the eggplant is heated through–in about a minute–the dish is ready to serve.

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