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Tuesday’s Tidbits (& Sips): 26 May 2009

Today’s Tidbits (& Sips) will feature a tale of woe and a recipe born of the desperation thereof.

The story begins two Sundays ago when I ventured into my kitchen to try out a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.  I had taken this cookbook out of the library with the express purpose of trying out some of the recipes before deciding whether to purchase the book or not.  (We’ll talk about my cookbook obsession and this cookbook, in particular, another day…)

Well, on this particular Sunday, my goal was to make Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry, one of the many recipes in the book.  I diligently prepared the eggplant which involved many steps including washing, slicing, oiling, broiling, cutting and seasoning the eggplant all before the actual cooking of the main dish.  Now, eggplant is one of my all time favorite vegetables, especially in curries, so I was fine with putting this much effort into its preparation.

All things considered, things were running smoothly.  That is up until it came time to add the eggplant to the pot in which the curry was being prepared…

I picked up the bowl containing the spiced eggplant and, in the next instant, the eggplant was all over the kitchen floor and cabinets…

Yep; I dropped the bowl.  Not only was it frustrating because now all of the preparation that had gone into the meal so far was useless.  Not only because of the fact that it was a giant mess.  But it was also all the eggplant we had in the house and the car was in the shop, meaning there was no way to get more eggplant until late into the evening.  I couldn’t bear the thought of having to go through all of the eggplant preparation a second time, late at night.  Something had to be done, though, as this was one of only two dishes Andrew and I had planned to sustain us through our busy week of work and school and social commitments.

After having a semi-nervous breakdown, I came to my senses and decided that, as much as I love eggplant, I would modify the recipe to use canned chickpeas as the main ingredient, as they are easy to acquire at any grocery store, relatively cheap, require almost no prep time and very little cooking and are usually wonderful in South East Asian curries.  The results were amazingly delicious.

So, I thought I would share the recipe with all of you.  Without further ado, my recipe for…

Sri Lankan Chickpea Curry

Based on Madhur Jaffrey’s Sri Lankan Eggplant Curry from World Vegetarian.

[Serves 6 to 8]

4 tsp. mustard seeds
13 oz. can of lite coconut milk
1/4 cup water

2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground fennel
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
3 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, rinsed and well-drained
juice of 2 limes
2 tbs. peanut or canola oil
2 small cinnamon sticks
60 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 large onion, peeled and cut into thin half rings

  1. Crush the mustard seeds using either a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle.  The seeds should be ground rather finely but not so much as to completely become a powder.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the ground mustard seed, coconut milk and water. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, create the curry powder by combining cumin, coriander, cayenne, fennel and turmeric. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, toss rinsed and drained chickpeas with the lime juice.
  5. Add curry powder to chickpeas and toss until evenly coated.  Set aside.
  6. In a large pot, heat the peanut or canola oil over medium-high heat.
  7. Once the oil is hot, add the cinnamon sticks and basil leaves and stir for about 10 seconds.
  8. Add the onions and stir-fry for 2 to 4 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
  9. Add the seasoned chickpeas and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
  10. Add the coconut milk mixture and bring to a boil.
  11. Once the mixture has started boiling, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Although you could serve this dish immediately, the curry is best after a day or two in the refrigerator, giving the flavors time to mingle.  When you want to serve, simply reheat over a low stove or on low power in the microwave.  This is the perfect make ahead dish for entertaining and is a great main dish served with rice or salad or a flavorful side dish.  Hope you enjoy it.  I know I did…