Having brought the harvest in from my little kitchen garden, I find I have too many aubergines (such a hardship). They are getting a little wrinkled, sitting there waiting for their turn, what with the squashes and tomatoes and celeriac we have to deal with, to name a few of the vegetables I’ve brought in. Luckily I have my grandmother’s recipe for kasaundi, which is a kind of aubergine preserve. It is cooked in a fairly large quantity, and sometimes eaten as a side dish, sometimes as a starter, and can be kept unrefrigerated in a jar. My grandmother lived in the Himalayan foothills, and she called them brinjals, not aubergines, and she probably had her glut of aubergines to enjoy in the late summer rather than in October, but her kasaundi was great. The recipe sounds complex, but actually when you’ve made it once, you realize doing a kasaundi is quick and easy once you’ve assembled your ingredients.
- The dry spices: Heat gently on a griddle until crisp, and then grind:
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds or aniseed
- The wet masala, ground with 1 tbsp. vinegar
30 g fresh ginger
1 large bulb garlic
5 dried red Kashmiri chillies.
- The vegetables
40 g fresh ginger, julienned
1 kg aubergine, washed, patted dry, and cut into roughly 2.5 cm cubes
3 mild green chillies, slit
- The tempering:
A generous pinch fenugreek (around ¼ tsp)
3 sprigs curry leaf, stalk removed, washed and the water shaken off
1/2 tsp kalaunji (onion seed, available in Asian shops)
2 tbsp whole black pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
200 ml olive oil
75 g grated or crushed jaggery, or dark brown sugar
75 ml mild fruit vinegar.
2 tsp salt
- Heat oil in a heavy pan (don’t let it smoke), then gently slide in the ingredients for tempering (see 4). Don’t let the fenugreek go black! Let it sputter, but as soon as it begins to brown, slip in the kalaunji and then the turmeric, and finally the curry leaves.
- Add dry spices, wet masala, and vegetables to the pan. Cover with a tight lid and cook for around 30 minutes or until the aubergine is very soft.
- Add seasoning (jaggery, vinegar and salt). Stir to dissolve the jaggery. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Serve with papadums or toasted sourdough bread as a starter, or on the side with flavourful mutton (full of flavour in the autumn).
Keep what’s left of the kasaundi in an airtight jar. If you keep it covered with oil, it will keep for a month, unrefrigerated, and you get to enjoy it a few times, not just once.