Monday, 7 January 2013

Indian Spice Trick!

Piccole Melanzane & Strische di Maiale alla "Chaat Masala"
Chaat Masala Spiced Mini Eggplant & Pork

If "variety is the spice of life", then spices are the only way to add variety to your cooking- and that is a fact of life! Without intending to sound pretentious, the spices I use in my cooking are the things that turn them into little works of art. Nature provides the colors of the ingredients- and of course also their flavors... but it is the spices that combine, enhance and elevate them into something richer and more wonderful by far...

Spices are important in any cuisine- but some, like Indian, which are so fragrant and enticing, depend on them to a much greater extent. Familiar with various curries, tandoori and chili spice bases, I decided to try out the fragrant "Chaat Masala" and invent this simple little dish. No, I am not Indian, nor am I an expert in Indian cuisine by any stretch of the imagination... but just as plenty of folks in Bombay are bound to make their own versions of spaghetti Bolognese, I see no reason for me to not enjoy experimenting with my spices over here!

Chaat Masala is a combination of ground cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, mango powder, black salt, black pepper, asafetida powder, ginger powder, mint, and carom seeds. Now... I am not really sure what a couple of those ingredients are- but the rest sounded wonderful, so I decided to try it! I read that this was a popular Masala, used in many street dishes in India... with that in mind, I thought it must be a generally pleasant flavor that would appeal to most people and set out to find out for myself!

I liked the sound of the mango powder and the mint- as well of course as cumin and fennel... and thought that sounded like a great mix to try out with the last of the pork tenderloin I had in the fridge and a couple of tiny eggplants that I picked up at the indoor market.

I began by cutting the pork into strips and frying it in just a hint of clarified butter, with finely chopped fresh ginger and onion. Once it was sizzling and had begun to brown, I added the eggplants, cut into quarters length-ways and some red peppers. Once the eggplant was moist with the juices from the pan, I added the Chaat Masala powder, making sure to get everything lightly coated. It is not a hot spice mix- so you may want to add a little chili or cayenne if you want that extra kick- in my case, I added a little cayenne... it was a good thing to do!

Next, I added a little tomato paste, a squeeze of lime juice and enough boiling water to deglaze the pan and to bring everything together and form a light sauce. A sprinkle of finely chopped mint and parsley were the next things to go into the pan, and a chopped Spring onion for texture, color and that nice sweet tanginess they have when they are not cooked to death... meaning that I added it literally just 3-4 minutes before I was ready to serve!

This was perfect on a bed of Basmati rice, but would also have been excellent with some Naan or Pita bread. It's good to have this yummy Chaat Masala- I shall be using it again for sure... and maybe you should try it too!

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