Eggplant Curry with Lentils Stew

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It is so rare to find good eggplant where I live, in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, that when I do, I celebrate by getting creative! One of my favorite Indian Food dishes is the exquisite baingan bharta (eggplant curry) yet I also like to get the protein and heartiness of dahl (lentil stew). Why not combine the two dishes in one? It tastes AMAZING and is worth the love, time and a little bit of effort to make this dish. It makes a lot and tastes even better the next day! Give it a try:

Rule number one of Indian food preparation – never buy pre-made curry powder. Make your own. The decadent taste is worth the few extra steps. I never measure anything, I go with the flow, so I’ll try to use exact quantities here. Instead of Ghee or Butter, choose the compassionate and super healthy, rich in anti-oxidants alternative, coconut-oil! Fortunately it is grown and made right here in this Caribbean archipelago. Don’t be afraid to use it abundantly. It is the ONLY oil when heated that DOES NOT TURN RANCID, so please DO NOT use vegetable oil or olive oil as a substitute. Trust me and go with the coconut oil – it’s worth the splurge if you live in a place where it’s relatively expensive. If you live in BDT and don’t know where to get these specialty spices you can find them at King’s Food in Panama City, Panama.

1 Pound Dried Lentils (washed, rinsed, soaked, rinsed again & cooked in fresh water, as usual). As the lentils are done cooking (about an hour) IN A SEPARATE stainless steel pot work on the curry mixture:

½ Cup Coconut Oil
One Large Red Onion – chopped
5 cloves Garlic
Carmelize onion & garlic together in Coconut oil (that means take it to a high heat, then simmer until they start to turn brown – this makes the onion turn sweet). Once carmelized, add to the onion/garlic/coconut oil mixture:

1 Tablespoon Black Mustard Seeds
Bring to a high-heat, then simmer until the black mustard seeds POP. Once they’ve popped, immediately take them off of the heat.

It is VERY easy to BURN Indian spices, so please, wait until the Black Mustard Seeds have cooled down to a low-simmering heat (better to play it safe and just turn off the heat at his point) and add the following to the oil:

Pinch of Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 Tablespoons of white Sesame Seeds
A pinch or two of Hing (Asafoetida Powder)
½ Teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Tablespoons Ground Tumeric
1/2 Tablespoon Coriander Powder

1/4 teaspoon Cumin Powder

1 Tablespoon Garam Masala
½ teaspoon ground Cayenne Pepper or couple of dashes of Tabasco Sauce
pinch of ground Cloves
pinch of ground Cinnamon
2 Bay Leaves

Once the spices have been allowed to lightly sit in the relatively low-heated oil for a few minutes, they are ready to be dumped into the large pot of already cooked lentils.

8 Big, ripe eggplants. IMPORTANT STEP – To extract bitter juices from eggplant, slice eggplant into 1″ slices. Salt both sides of it, and let sit for 15 minutes on each side. You will see the eggplant “sweat”. Rinse the salt and sweat off. Chop up into ½” cubes. Add cubed eggplant to the large pot of lentils & spices, then add the following:

2 large, fresh Ripe Tomatoes chopped (do NOT used canned tomatoes, they are toxic)
2 or 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
½ Tablespoon Salt

Let the whole mixture, of all ingredients combined, simmer for at least ½ hour for the flavors to mix.

Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
Have a bottle of pure hot sauce (no preservatives, artificial flavours, gums, sugars, etc.) on the table to dash on to adjust hotness to your taste. Serve with love, compassion and gratitude.