How To Cook Indian Food In Less Than 30 Minutes
Mango pickle-flavoured aubergine. Photograph by Mr Mike Cooper, courtesy of Bloomsbury
A quick and easy aubergine recipe from Mr Atul Kochhar.
Mr Atul Kochhar knows a thing or two about fine Indian food. In 2001, while working at Mayfair’s Tamarind, he became the first Indian chef to earn a Michelin star. He went on to open Benares restaurant and bar in May 2003, for which he was awarded another star in 2007. Mr Kocchar has shown off his considerable talents for British TV on the likes of the Great British Menu, Saturday Kitchen and his own 2010 series, and he has been a consultant chef for Marks & Spencer. Now, the chef is sharing his extensive experience and expertise with home cooks in his new book 30 Minute Curries. Essential reading for Indian food lovers lacking in time and access to large volumes of spices, the recipes illustrate the chef’s pared-back and democratic cooking style.
Mr Atul Kochhar. Photograph by Mr Cristian Barnett, courtesy of Bloomsbury
“I am on a mission to entice you all to cook a curry in under 30 minutes,” says Mr Kochhar in the introduction to his book. “I have thrown all the chef processes out the window.” What this means is that the recipes require only simple ingredients, with no weird utensils or deep-frying found in the methods. What’s more, Mr Kochhar’s cooking has a health focus: sunflower oil is replaced by rapeseed oil; low-fat yoghurt is often used in place of cream or cheese; and many recipes include tamarind, which is “universally seen as a superfood,” he says. You can pick up the book here. Or, if you want to get cooking right away, he has kindly supplied the recipe to his mango pickle-flavoured aubergine, below.
Mr Atul Kochar’s mango pickle-flavoured aubergine
**Serves 4 as a sharing dish
**Achari is a common term in Indian cookery to indicate that something has been pickled. Here, I use the traditional mix of pickling spices called panch phoron and mango pickle for a tang that really tickles the palate. I absolutely adore this dish. Normally I wouldn’t add water to aubergine as it cooks, but I do in this recipe to speed up the cooking time. I could have deep-fried the aubergine first to soften it, but I want to keep this family-style side dish as healthy as possible.
Ingredients:2 large aubergines, about 550g total weight3 tbsp vegetable oil1¼ tsp panch phoron2 tsp ground coriander1 tsp ground turmeric½ tsp red chilli powder, or to tasteAbout 200ml water5cm piece of fresh ginger2 tomatoes1 thick green chilli1 tsp Indian mango pickle from a jar – you want to use small pieces and some of the oilFresh coriander leavesSea salt
Assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you begin. You need a large sauté or frying pan with a lid.
Remove the stem end from the aubergines and halve lengthways, then quarter each half lengthways and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat the vegetable oil over a medium-high heat in the pan. Add the panch phoron and stir until the seeds crackle. Add the aubergine and stir until all the oil is absorbed. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and ½ tsp of salt, and continue stirring for 30 seconds to cook the spices. Watch closely so they do not burn.
Stir in 100ml of the water, then cover the pan and leave the aubergine to steam-cook, stirring occasionally, for 12–15 minutes until it is softened. Watch closely so the aubergine doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan, and gradually stir in the remaining 100ml of water, if necessary. You want to avoid adding so much water that the aubergine becomes mushy, however.
Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the ginger. Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Remove the stalk from the green chilli, if necessary, then finely chop the chilli. If the pieces of mango in the pickle are large, finely chop them. Chop enough coriander leaves to make about 2 tsp.
When the aubergine has softened and is golden, stir in the tomatoes, the green chilli, the mango pickle and oil and 1 tsp of the chopped ginger. Re-cover the pan and leave to finish cooking over a medium heat for a further 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes are broken down and the flavours are blended.
Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Stir in the remaining ginger and sprinkle with the chopped coriander just before serving.