Not because I came up with the fabulous idea to mix together roasted eggplant, tamarind and chickpeas, but because I kind of ran with a taste in my mouth and help from a friend.
One of my co-workers is vegan and recently invited Rob and me for dinner. He went all out with multiple salads, curries, biryani and dessert. Served on a weekday, at that. I was blown away. By all of it.
The dish that I enjoyed the most was the tamarind roasted eggplant with chickpeas. I asked how it was made:. He said it was easy, just roast the eggplant with masala spices, then cook it with tamarind and chickpeas. Easy, peasy, right? Not really.. a bit too vague for my liking for me to recreate it. ;)
I figured my Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas (Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with chickpeas) was a good starting point, though, and after reading it over, my friend gave me some tips:
1. No ginger, more garlic to enhance the eggplant (I happily obliged)
2. No cilantro, and if so, just add it at the end (I just omitted it – it was better without)
3. Heat the chickpeas and slightly mash them, so that they can better absorb the flavours from the rest of the dish (great idea!!)
4. Add some turmeric (done!)
5. Remove or limit the coconut (removed!)
With a bit of trepidation, I set out to recreate this dish. I got my eggplant roasting and re-read my instructions. Sauteed onions and a good dose of garlic. Ground coriander, cumin and garam masala…
It has been a long time since I’ve cooked with eggplant (over 2 years, if you excuse my Raw Eggplant Bacon from last year as that was not technically cooked). Roasting it is definitely my preferred cooking method. It may take a while to cook but the results give you a silky base. Here, the fragrant Indian spices contrast nicely with the sweet/tart tamarind, floating in the silky eggplant peppered with chickpeas. The photos don’t really do it justice because it looks kinda of chunky when it actually wasn’t. Definitely one of my favourite dishes this year.
Have you ever been really excited by your own culinary creation?
Eggplant, chickpeas and tamarind elsewhere:
Eggplant, Chickpea and Tamarind stew at The Guardian
Tamarind Spiced Roasted Eggplant Soup at Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Tamarind Eggplant and Chickpeas at Relish
Eggplant, Tomato, Chickpea Tamarind Stew at Allotment 2 Kitchen
Eggplant Curry with Tamarind & Mint at Veggie Num Num
Tamarind Roasted Eggplant and Chickpeas
4 Asian eggplants (1.5-2 lbs)
1 tbsp coconut oil, divided (or less)
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
pinch Aleppo chili flakes
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
3 tbsp tamarind concentrate, or to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Pierce eggplants and place whole on the baking sheet. Roast for about 1 hour. Watch closely during the last 15 minutes of roasting. Set aside to cool.
2. After it is roasted and cooled, peel and coarsely chop the eggplant. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat until hot. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and cook about 10 minutes until softened and golden.
4. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and chile flakes; cook 1 minute until fragrant. If things become sticky, deglaze the pan with a touch of water and continue cooking for 1 more minute.
5. Add cooled eggplant and cook 5 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat the chickpeas in a small saucepot (or microwave) and mash slightly. Add the somewhat mashed chickpeas to the eggplant and stir until heated through, another 5 minutes. Add tamarind concentrate. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve with your favourite Indian bread.