Don't be scared of this recipe - it's easy to make it more mellow by turning down the spices a notch or two. It is great on its own but also goes very well with our Chickpea & Sweet Potato recipe.
I found the original on Jack Monroe's Cooking on a Bootstrap budget recipe and blog site and messed around with it a tad - partly because my household is a bit scared of hot food (except for me!) In turn, Jack found the original recipe in Camilla Panjabi's legendary 50 Great Curries of India - and veganised it as well as tweaked it. This is often how new recipes are made - a few small but transformative changes to one recipe can create something quite different.
NB Cooking on a Bootstrap is not entirely vegan as Jack has only recently gone vegan but there have always been lots of vegan recipes and this is bound to increase. Camilla Panjabi's book is not entirely vegetarian or vegan either but she states that the recipes can all or mostly be made with vegetables and/or pulses instead of meat or fish. Using vegan yoghurt, omitting eggs and so forth are also simple ways of tweaking such recipes. In addition, her statement about the violence of meat inspired Jack Monroe to go vegan... I already had a copy of Panjabi's book and it's inspired me to revisit it... watch this space!
2 medium aubergines 3 white onions 6 fat cloves of garlic 1 red chilli, seeds removed then finely chopped. For a milder curry, halve this. Alternatively, use ½-1 tsp chilli flakes 1 level tsp cinnamon 1 heaped tsp cumin 1/8 tsp fennel seeds OR ½ tsp ground fennel Cooking oil, plain, about 1-2 tbsp 2 tbsp tomato puree OR tomato ketchup if you don't have puree 2 tbsp lemon juice ½ tinned coconut milk (the rest will freeze for another time) Salt and black pepper to taste
In a separate saucepan 100g/3½ oz/heaped ½ cup red lentils
Optional extras Finely shredded cabbage, spring greens or kale; roughly chopped spinach or Swiss Chard - cook in a few minutes before the end or cook separately. Plain vegan yoghurt Chapatis
ALL KITTED OUT 1 medium saucepan for curry; small saucepan for lentils; chopping board; sharp knife; colander; sieve; measuring spoons; tin opener; wooden or silicone spoon
1. Wash and chop the aubergines into medium cubes. Set aside. 2. Peel and finely slice or chop the onions and set aside. Peel the garlic and set aside. Get the spices and other ingredients ready to go. 3. Heat the larger saucepan and add the oil to the pan. Gently fry the onions, reducing the heat so they 'sweat'. When they are starting to go translucent add the whole peeled garlic cloves and stir in for a minute or two. Now add the chopped aubergine. Stir it occasionally. Add a splash of water if things start to stick. 4. Put on brown rice to cook now if using. 5. Dice the aubergine and add to the pot, stirring all to disturb and stop it from sticking and burning. 6. Add the spices - but go easy on the chilli to start with until you have tasted the dish. You can always add more or else serve chilli flakes or chilli sauce on the side for those who like spicier food. 7. Add about ½ cup/120ml water to the pan. Turn up the heat and bring it to the boil then reduce again and let everything simmer. Stir occasionally and add a splash more water if it starts to stick. 8. Meanwhile, rinse the lentils in a sieve until the water goes fairly clear. Add them to the small saucepan and cover with water - don't swamp them as you can always add more water if necessary. 9. Cook the lentils for around 12-15 minutes or until they are soft. Drain. There shouldn't be any scum but if there is, scrape it off. Add the lentils to the aubergine mixture in the pan. If using white rice, put on to cook now. 10. Add the tomato purée, lemon juice and coconut milk and stir well. Add salt then bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally - the aubergines should be cooked and the sauce thick. Cook for a few minutes more if necessary. To conserve fuel, place a sheet of foil over the top, seal it all with the saucepan lid and switch off the heat - this will keep the heat in and let it continue cooking slowly.Taste and season with black pepper and extra salt if desired. Drain the rice and serve hot with the curry.