Dry-Pan-Roasted Eggplant in Gram Flour & Indian Spices
Oh yes, you had better believe it- yet another eggplant recipe and I am proud of it too! I never get tired of eggplant or of the way to you totally change its character depending on how you prepare it and how you season it- and you all know me well enough by now to know that I love to try anything that is different... so this evening I tried out yet another new idea...
The other "star ingredient" in this dish was chickpea flour, also known as Gram flour or Besan- yet another of my favorite ingredients as it too is very versatile in its uses. I got the idea for this dish whilst reminiscing about a recipe I once tried called "Besan Sabji", which is made my roasting chick-pea flour in a dry pan and then stirring in freshly cut strips of bell pepper. What happens with that dish is that as the peppers become hot and moist, as they start to steam and cook, the flour sticks to the moist surface and forms a kind-of crust which has the rich flavor of toasted chickpeas and is totally delicious. And I used a similar method to prepare the eggplant this evening... take a look and see!
The ingredients for this were pretty simple: eggplant, chickpea flour, fresh mint and yoghurt and 2 Indian spice mixes- Panch Puren and Chaat Masala. The Chaat Masala was already ground and includes the most complex mix of spices... are you ready for this? Dried mango powder, black salt, cumin, coriander seed, curry leaf, caraway seed, ginger, red chili, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and asafötida. Whew! That almost makes the Panch Puren sound simple- this is a mixture of cumin fenugreek, mustard, fennel and kalonji. That's a lot of spice! But they are simply delicious and aromatic spices and nothing harsh, "hot" or aggressive at all.
The only reason I decided to add the Panch Puren was because I wanted to have the odd fennel and cumin seed in the coating and thought it would be nice if I ground them only a little, so that they would be there to bite down and chew on... because, yep- they are also favorite spices of mine too!
The preparation was quite simple and the first thing I did was to slice the eggplant up and to sprinkle it with salt on both sides. I then let it sit for around 15 minutes to "draw water" and to exude any bitterness it may have had- leaving me free to begin with gram flour coating.
As with most Indian dishes, the first step was to toast the spices in a dry pan for 3-4 minutes before grinding them up... easy. So into my dry frying pan went 1 teaspoon of Panch Puren. Normally, I would grind the spices together very finely, but as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to leave the fennel and cumin a little bite today, so I didn't overdo it and just stirred it, together with 1 teaspoon of Chaat masala, into the gram flour.
After about 15 minutes, the eggplant slices were looking a little moist- a good sign that meant I could now wring out that excess moisture and bitterness and then place them directly onto a dish into which I had poured the flour and spice mix. I pressed the slices into the flour from both sides and let them sit for 2-3 minutes. The eggplant was of course still a little moist from the salting and squeezing and this helped the flour to stick to it, but also soaked through the flour in places, which of course also helped it to stick even better still.
Once all of the slices were coated on both sides, I dry-roasted them in the frying pan over a moderate heat... not too hot! Give it time and you will be much happier at the end of the day ;-) Don't worry about the gram flour burning... it won't- but what it will do is develop a lovely, rich chickpea aroma of its own- as well as, of course, smelling of those rich and wonderful spices. I would say that it took 5-6 minutes from either side to become a nice golden brown color.
Being as the eggplant slices need to simply sit still and brown gently for a while, I had time to prepare a very simple dip of plain yoghurt, a little salt and pepper, a little lime juice and lots of mint- which is wonderful and refreshing to counter the spices but also always, always delicious with any eggplant dish.
In the meantime, the eggplant was looking brown on either side, but not fantastic- and of course, a little dry and floury around the outside edges even though the cut surfaces looked nice. Don't ask me why, but my instinct led me to try the next step- which sounds crazy, I know!
I first took all of the eggplant out of the pan, then quickly brushed out any residue of flour and spice with a little kitchen roll and returned the pan to the heat. I then added just a splash of water- enough to coat the bottom of the frying pan, then quickly popped all of the eggplant slices into the pan and flipped them over quickly. The water transformed the flour coating into almost a kind of batter, which then in turn immediately dried out again and became even crisper than before, whilst at the meantime making the eggplant in the center softer and moister. Incredibly, after just a couple of minutes, the slices are so much more golden and better coated... you are going to love them!
And with the refreshing mint and yoghurt dip, there was everything I needed to have a wonderful and incredibly tasty, Vegetarian supper. And yes I did enjoy it too! Even though I somehow think there may be more salami on my suppertime horizon in the none to distant future... stay tuned tomorrow evening and find out!