This seems like such a simple dish, but the taste is really quite complex and deeply satisfying. The original recipe has come from Jenny Chandler, with my usual add ins and alterations. I realise I am cooking with aubergine often, but such is the way with locavore eating. You eat what is available and fresh.
I thought I would include a photo for you of what can happen if you forget to pierce the skin of a fresh aubergine before putting it in the oven to roast. It explodes! Yes there is oven carnage and the noise it makes is quite startling. Ok….that’s enough laughing now.
Brush the surfaces of the aubergines with the olive oil and prick each one with a sharp knife. Place on a roasting tray in the oven (180°C/ 350°F) until they are soft. Probably about 30 minutes depending on oven and size of aubergines. Once they are cooked, hold them by the stem and slice from top to bottom all the way around at 1 cm intervals. Squash down into the lentils when you are serving to create the look as in the first photo.
4 firm smallish aubergines (eggplants)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
grated thumb sized ginger
1 heaped tsp grated fresh turmeric (1 level dried)
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
155g (1 c) red lentils
water to cover
1 tsp ground cumin
1 yellow chilli chopped
salt and pepper
100ml natural yogurt
1.5 tbsp tamarind paste
60g freshly toasted chopped cashews
2 tbsp chopped charon beni (or coriander)
Chadon beni is the West Indian substitute for coriander. Its really strange as it tastes almost exactly like coriander but looks nothing like it. Its flavour is a bit stronger, and it literally grows like a weed. Useful really.
Soften the onions in the coconut oil and then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chilli and allow to gently mingle for about 5 minutes. Add the red lentils and cumin and stir to mix thoroughly Pour enough water in to cover the ingredients.
Red lentils cook quite fast and absorb a lot of water, so please keep your eye on this, adding water if you need to. Keep in mind that the end result should be wet, but not soupy.
While the lentils and aubergines are cooking, assemble the toppings. Chop the charon beni (or coriander) and roughly chop the cashews which you toss in a small dry frying pan for 5 or 6 minutes, just until they begin to toast.
First ladle the red lentils and artfully place an aubergine in the centre. Spoon on the yogurt, followed by a teaspoon or so of tamarind paste and then sprinkle on the chadon beni and the chopped nuts.