Eggplant curry: the miracle meal

A few weeks ago I was catering for a retreat for 150 young adults. They needed to be fed for the whole weekend, which involved some serious cooking and quantities of food that were quite staggering. The friends who helped in the kitchen with me laughed and cried (onions, lots of onions), chopped, peeled, roasted, baked and served. It was a fun weekend, doing life with my tribe.

There were a number of campers with special dietary requirements and I was determined to create a dinner dish that would cover everyone. So here it is – a vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, nut free eggplant curry. Huzzah!! And it tastes amazing. Even without garlic and onion (to accommodate low- FODMAP requirements) there is a rich depth of flavour and balance between salt, sweet and heat. It is a great dish to have in the repertoire for friends and family with special dietary needs – and it is quick and easy too. If you want it to be a little more robust then add some small pieces of potato to the sauce a couple of minutes before adding the eggplant. Serve with rice or naan, or both.

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Serves 4

1 stalk lemongrass
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fresh tumeric
5 cm piece fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
50 ml canola oil
3 green shallots, finely chopped
1 bunch coriander
750 g eggplant
400 ml can coconut cream
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce (don’t use this if making the dish vegan – just add a little more salt)
1/2 juicy lime
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1 long red fresh chilli, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted flaked coconut

In a pestle and mortar, or a small food processor, combine the lemongrass (bruised with the pestle and finely sliced), chilli flakes, coriander seeds, turmeric (peeled and finely chopped), ginger (peeled and finely chopped),  salt and the oil until it forms a rough paste. Add to a medium sized pan with the shallots and the finely chopped roots and stems of the fresh coriander. Cook over medium heat until aromatic. Add the coconut cream and 100 ml water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, chop the eggplant into chunks. When the sauce reaches a simmer, add the eggplant and bring again to the boil. Simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and the sauce thickened a little. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar and taste. Adjust with a little more lime or sugar, if needed. Just before serving stir through the coriander leaves, roughly chopped and scatter over the toasted coconut and fresh chilli.