This dish was inspired by the beautiful japanese eggplant and zucchini I found at the Tapia Brothers Pumpkin Patch in Encino.
My first request when my dad comes to visit from South Africa is for my curry powder.
“Curry” is not necessarily synonymous with “spicy”. It is just a flavor which comes from a mix of spices (coriander, turmeric, red pepper, cumin, etc.) and you get many different types of “curry” dishes.
I have such fond memories of going to the Oriental Plaza —the bustling Indian Market in Johannesburg—with my mother. I would happily tag along as she picked up fresh spices and magnificent fabrics, and then she would treat me to a fresh, hot samosa. (We pronounced it “samoosa”.)
I don’t even know what spices exactly are in this fantabulous blend of curry-goodness that my dad gets custom-made by his special Indian lady, and shleps 10,000 miles for me. But when my nose comes anywhere near the bag, I literally start to salivate and daydream about what I can make with it.
You, of course, don’t have to import custom-made curry from South Africa, but can buy any brand of yellow curry powder (Indian, not Thai) from your local grocery store. Even Trader Joe’s has a good curry blend.
The first time I made curry for Sam (the husband), I didn’t fish out all the leaves, twigs and seeds, and he didn’t appreciate the “texture” of the dish. So I now strain it. But don’t worry, the kind you buy in the supermarket is just plain, simple powder.
I’m sure the fancy, authentic Indian chefs would frown on me using ketchup and sugar in my recipe, and not cooking the spices first to bring out the flavor. But sometimes you don’t want to go to all that trouble, and this is healthy and super-delicious without all the work.
Please try it and let me know how you do!
Orna’s Curried Veggies
Mild or spicy but always tasty!
If you don’t like spicy food don’t worry, this will just be tasty but it won’t be hot.
Japanese eggplant is smaller and more tender than regular eggplant, so it won’t be bitter, and you’ll have less of the middle, pulpy part when you cut it up into small pieces. You can also use Chinese or Italian eggplant.
Don’t cut up the eggplant until you are ready to cook it or it will go brown.
If you don’t have a lemon, you can substitute with rice vinegar or even balsamic vinegar. The acid brightens the dish and brings out the flavor. Add a little and taste to see if the flavors pop—without actually tasting the lemon or vinegar.
If you don’t have Telma Vegetable Cubes, you can substitute with chicken broth, but I urge you to buy some because they add thickness and depth of flavor to many dishes.
This dish is even better the next day. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
What I learned from watching too much Food Network TV:
Make sure all your knife cuts are even so that everything cooks evenly.
Make sure to season every layer well with kosher salt and pepper as you are cooking, or your final product will be bland—salt brings out the flavor. The vegetable cubes do add salt, so you won’t need to season quite as much.
When dicing an onion, slice it in half, but leave the root intact. Make parallel slices up to, but not through the root. Then make slices parallel to the cutting board. Finally, chop off beautifully diced onions parallel to the root.
Sometimes I forget to do this, and as you can see with my unruly onion slices on the left, it makes it much harder to stay in control of your onion!
If you are using a non-stick pot you can use even less olive oil—though nowadays I avoid cooking completely fat free food, like I used to. I find that it isn’t as satisfying or tasty, and you just end up eating more.
Now I go for Quality versus Quantity. But there’s still no need for greasy, oily food—especially when it comes to vegetables!
Sip on a cup of steamy, satisfying Telma Vegetable Broth to stave off those winter afternoon-munchies!
I LOVE using my Mario Batali dutch oven for this dish!
- 6 - 8 small japanese eggplants, 1/2-inch cubes (cut just before cooking)
- 6 - 8 small zucchini (mix of green & yellow, or whatever is available), 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large red pepper, 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 small or 4 medium tomatoes, 1-inch cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional (for extra heat)
- 2 Telma Vegetable Cubes
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 - 3 tablespoons curry powder (2 for mild, 3 for strong curry flavor)
- Line a sheet pan with two layers of paper towels.
- Crush the vegetable cubes with a fork in a measuring cup.
- Add 3/4 cup boiling water and stir to dissolve.
- Add curry powder, sugar and ketchup and mix well. Set aside.
- Heat your favorite large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add eggplant and stir immediately to distribute the oil. Sauté for 8 - 10 minutes until tender, seasoning with kosher salt and pepper while cooking.
- Remove to prepared baking sheet.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pot and cook zucchini and peppers till soft, seasoning well. Remove to baking sheet.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to pot and add onions. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until nice and brown.
- Add garlic and cook for about one minute until fragrant, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn't burn. Lower heat if necessary.
- Add tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 8 - 10 minutes until nice and mushy, stirring up the brown bits on the bottom.
- If required, add red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick.
- Add sauce and cook for about one minute, stirring to combine. Add water if too thick.
- Return the veggies to the pot. Cover, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft and mushy and all the flavors have come together. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary.
- Add lemon juice at the end and, if necessary, add a bit more sugar to balance the flavors. Check seasoning.
- Serve over brown rice for a complete meal.