Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thai Eggplant Curry

I just love trying out new recipes, especially when they turn out to be fantastic finds! This little recipe (which I had shamefully overlooked for the past few weeks) is amazing for several reasons. Here they are in no particular order:
  • Its super easy and quick to make. Once the chopping is done, you'll hardly need 20 minutes to get your meal on the table. Perfect for week nights!
  • Its so tasty and flavorful, with the ginger, garlic, curry paste and coconut milk. Not too spicy, not too sweet; just awesome.
  • Its a gorgeous, colorful plate of vegetables. A bright dish can cure the kind of winter blues that afflict so many of us at this time of the year, and we can all use a bit more veggies in our plate!

Eggplant is great in curries because it absorbs the flavor of the other ingredients, turning into tasty and tender little bites as it simmers. You could use any type of eggplant for this recipe, but I prefer the long Japanese kind here. Pick them smooth-skinned and as brightly purple as you can find! Unlike regular European eggplant, there is no need to salt them before you cook: they do not have the occasional bitterness you find in the larger eggplants.

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 pounds Asian eggplants, cut into half-moons (3 or 4 eggplants)
2 orange or red bell peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (or coconut cream, for a luxurious, richer curry)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (substitute soy sauce if you want to keep it vegan)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup Thai basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lime wedges, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Add the eggplants and bell pepper and sauté until the eggplant has begun to soften all around, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste. Mix well until the paste covers all the other ingredients, and cook until aromatic, another 1 minute.

Pour in the coconut milk and bring the liquid to a simmer. Stir in the fish sauce and brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the eggplant is very tender.

Stir in the Thai basil leaves and cook for another minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with rice and lime wedges to squeeze over the curry.

You can bulk it up a bit more by adding 1 container of cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced, along with the other vegetables: their earthy flavor goes very well with the spicy, creamy sauce.

This recipe serves 4, but if you want to make it for a crowd or a pot-luck, double the coconut milk, garlic, ginger and curry paste, and add 1 pound of extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and add it to the pot when you set the curry to simmer. If you think there isn't enough liquid, add 1 cup of water or vegetable broth.

If you prefer green or yellow Thai curry to red, you should feel free to use those instead of the red curry paste. Just watch out because the level of heat varies from one "color" to the other, green being the hottest, and yellow the mildest.

It's the perfect quick dinner for those cold and damp February evenings!

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