This is such a terrific pickle. I found this recipe by Charmaine Solomon in the 1970s when my boys and I lived on our wee farm and grew all our vegetables. I must have planted a lot of eggplant seeds because when it became apparent that we would have dozens of the big, purple fruits, I had to work out what to do with them. Hence the brinjal pickle.
These days, in order to experience the gorgeous flavours and texture of this pickle, I have to buy the aubergines. Sob. It doesn’t matter what brand of Brinjal pickle I buy in jars in Asian supermarkets, it doesn’t taste anywhere near as delicious as the homemade variety. I guess, because to be commercially viable, some things are left out, some stuff added and blah. Anyway, it doesn’t have the same flavour I like. My boys used this as a spread on their cheese sandwiches. You can also use it on rice for a quick curry. It is truly lovely stuff. As a curry it is called Brinjal pahi and I am sure there are as many versions as there are cooks – 1,490 entries in Wikipedia alone! This one is now mine.
Here we go.
3 medium purple aubergines or 2 large ones – sliced about ¾cm thick.
Lay out as many slices as fit on a paper kitchen towel. Sprinkle salt over the slices and then sprinkle turmeric powder. Rub the slices, turn them over and repeat for the other side.
Use a big, non-reactive bowl and place the prepared slices in layers. Cover with a plastic sheet and leave to sweat the moisture for a minimum of two hours. I often left the aubergine overnight and poured the liquid off in the morning. Blot the slices dry on paper before frying. This doesn’t take as long as you think it will. Have a cuppa.
Sliced aubergine exsanguinating
Cover the base of a large frying pan with about 2cm oil and heat. Fry the slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Reserve the frying oil. I have to say that an Aga would be good. I had a slow combustion stove on the farm and the ability to control heat is an advantage. I have made it on a gas stove but never on an electric stove. Today I had to use the induction hob. Not good, not good at all. I mean the cooking worked but fires are a much better way to go.
Sweated, dried off & ready to fry – this is the tedious part of the process
Wet Spice Mix
1tbsp black mustard seed
½cup brown vinegar. I used a malt vinegar once – t’weren’t the same
1 brown onion finely chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic sliced finely
1tbsp fresh, finely chopped ginger
Blend mustard seed and vinegar until mustard is ground down. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until it becomes a smooth paste.
Dry Spice Mix – or an equivalent amount of curry powder and curry leaves.
1tbsp ground coriander
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground fennel
Using a small dry pan, heat the ingredients gently – shake the pan constantly, don’t let the mixture burn. It should be a medium brown colour and fragrant.
½cup tamarind pulp steeped in ¾cup hot water. Strain, discard seeds, reserve liquid.
3 fresh chillies, seeded and sliced
Small cinnamon stick
1tsp chilli powder if desired
Heat ½cup reserved oil, fry blended wet mixture for 5mins. Add dry mixture and other ingredients. Add the aubergine slices (I use a sharp knife at this stage to roughly cut through the aubergine thus breaking the skin up) and oil from the bowl they were in, stir well, cover and simmer for 15mins. You may need to add some more salt.
Keep your wee spoon out of this – we are bottling it.
Let cool thoroughly before bottling in clean, dry bottles. I kept a bottle for 4 years and it was absolutely gorgeous. It just doesn’t ever go ‘off’.