January 21st, 2012

Eggplant & Black Eyed Pea Curry

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Serves 6 to 8
Total time: 1 hour || Active time: 20 minutes

Eggplant, Lentil & Black Eyed Pea Curry

January for me means there’s always a chili or a curry simmering away on the stove. There’s no farmer’s markets to speak of so of course I’m depending on lots of beans and pantry items. When your toes are so cold all the time you need something warm and filling at the ready, and the spice doesn’t hurt, either! Its fragrance warms everything up like a magic spell wafting throughout the house. In fact, this curry was so aromatic that the mailman had to knock on the door just to tell me how good it smelled. Now that’s sayin’ something.

I wanted lots of texture here and so I went with hearty ingredients. Eggplant, for one, with its great meaty seeds and velvety body. And then I used a little lentil trick that is worth its weight in gold (I mean, worth it’s weight in lentils.) Use two kinds: red lentils as a backdrop, because they just melt into the stew and provide a thick heartiness. And then brown or green lentils which stay toothsome and intact.

You can serve with basmati rice, of course, but it’s also great over mashed potatoes (maybe even cilantro or scallion mashed potatoes if you want to get a little fancy.) When peeling the eggplant, you don’t have to be too precise. A little skin left on is fine, I just find that a lot of skin is a little obtrusive and it also prevents the eggplant from breaking down. I used black eyed peas to switch things up a bit, but kidney or chickpeas are great here, too!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced medium
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons mild curry powder (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed or chopped fennel seed
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (leave out if you don’t like spicy, increase if you do)
1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (extra for garnish)
5 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (about 2 16 oz cans)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onions in oil until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.

Add the eggplant, curry powder, fennel seed, salt, pepper and cayenne along with a 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth to cook the eggplant down for a minute or two.

Add lentils, cilantro and remaining vegetable broth. Cover pot and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye. Once it’s boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, until lentils are tender and eggplant is soft. Add black eyed peas to heat through, and stir in the tomato paste and lemon juice. If you’d like a thicker curry, then leave the lid off for the last 10 minutes. For thinner then just add a little extra broth. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Let sit for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor. Serve garnished with cilantro if you like.

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