Eggplant and Raisin Tamarind Curry

2 eggplants, sliced medium thick, about 1 1/2 pounds total
1-1/2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
coarse (kosher) salt
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed in a press
1 tablespoon ginger, fresh, grated
1 tablespoon coriander, ground
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
1 pinch cinnamon, ground
1/2 cup raisins, golden
1-1/2 teaspoon sugar, light brown, packed or to taste
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
cilantro, fresh, leaves, for garnish

1. Place eggplant in colander, sprinkle with coarse salt, and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry well with paper towels.

2. Soak tamarind pulp in 1/3 cup boiling water, off the heat, for 15 minutes. Stir and mash with fork to help it dissolve. Strain through a fine strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid.

3. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. In batches, cook the eggplant until golden on both sides, about 7 minutes per batch, transferring the cooked eggplant to paper towels to drain. Drain thoroughly, changing the paper towels with each batch.

4. Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy flameproof casserole or dutch oven, over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, curry powder, cayenne, black pepper and cinnamon and stir for 1 minute.

5. Add the remaining water, tamarind liquid, raisins and sugar and salt to taste and simmer over low heat until the mixture reduces and thickens, 5-7 minutes. Add the garam masala and cook for another minute. Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

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