This tamarind eggplant recipe from Rajasthan is from the new cookbook Indian Cooking Class by Australian chef Christine Manfield, who has a deep love of India, Indian cuisines and spices, having travelled to India 40 times and published four books on Indian food. This tamarind eggplant dish is sweet and sour, savoury and saucy, and it comes together quickly.
If you loved Christine Manfield’s chole bhatura recipe for a Punjabi chole or chickpea curry from the Punjab region of Northern India, which straddles India and Pakistan, which we also published, you’re also going to love this tamarind eggplant recipe from neighbouring region of Rajasthan.
“I collected this recipe years ago in Rajasthan,” says Christine Manfield in her new cookbook Indian Cooking Class. “It’s one of my all-time favourite eggplant dishes. I use it at any opportunity. I love its deeply satisfying sweet and sour notes.”
Christine Manfield has been travelling to and leading culinary tours in India for over two decades, and Northern India is one of her favourite parts of the country, and Rajasthan one of her favourite places.
The chef and prolific cookbook author wrote about her passion for Rajasthan in a previous cookbook cum travelogue, the award-winning Tasting India, which is a fantastic companion to Indian Cooking Class.
“Travelling through the desert state of Rajasthan you discover a region overflowing with an embarrassment of riches. It is perhaps the most dazzling state of all, the ‘land of the kings’, ablaze with colour everywhere you look – from saris and turbans to forts and palaces to spices and food.”
“Descendants of the seductive kingdom of the mighty Rajput warriors, the Rajasthanis are striking and proud. The men wear their distinctive moustaches and turbans with great pride, while the women are swathed in vividly coloured saris and adorned with dazzling jewellery.”
Before I share more on Christine’s love affair with Rajasthan and this tamarind eggplant recipe from Christine Manfield’s cookbook Indian Cooking Class, we have a favour to ask.
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Now let’s tell you more about this tamarind eggplant recipe by Christine Manfield in her new cookbook Indian Cooking Class, published by Simon & Schuster Australia, and reproduced here with the publisher’s permission.
Tamarind Eggplant Recipe from Rajasthan from Indian Cooking Class by Christine Manfield
I wrote in my post on Christine’s chickpea curry recipe how we’d long known of the chef’s love of spice, which she incorporated into her Modern Australian cuisine which we had the chance to savour when we lived on the same street as her restaurant, Paramount, in Potts Point in the 1990s.
What we hadn’t realised was that in the two decades that we’ve been living abroad and travelling the world, the Australian chef had travelled to India more than 40 times over two decades, discovering the cuisines of India and hosting Indian culinary tours.
Before I share Christine’s tamarind eggplant recipe I want to share some of her evocative writing on Rajasthan.
In Christine’s cookbook Tasting India – which she describes as her “gastronomic odyssey through home kitchens, crowded alleyways, fine restaurants, and street carts to explore the masterful, complex, and vibrant tapestry of Indian cuisine” – she vividly captures the colours, sounds and tastes of Rajasthan:
“The landscape is dotted with Mewari forts dating from the 14th century onwards, many of them now converted into luxury accommodation set against the dramatic backdrop of the Aravali mountains, where the Mughals once hunted with maharajas when tigers roamed freely…”
“Known as the gateway to Rajasthan, Jaipur is the largest of the state’s fortified cities, the pink hue of the local stone used in its construction reflecting the colour of the desert. Just north of the city is the magnificent Amber Fort, whose lakeside garden in the summer pavilion is planted like a Persian carpet.”
“…Rajasthani food is (also) prey to the whims of the desert and the paucity of ingredients it yields. Because water is scarce, milk, buttermilk and curd are liberally used to add moisture. Dried lentils, indigenous desert beans, millet, corn and other cereals replace leafy greens, and the dominant spices include mustard seeds, turmeric, fenugreek and coriander.”
“A visit to the shops and markets of the Johri Bazaar is mandatory. Vegetable vendors – on the sides of the streets, in vendor carts and in small shops – display their fresh, colourful and diverse produce invitingly…”
“For an authentic taste of Jaipur and Rajasthani food, venture into one of the busy dhabas (roadside restaurants) set up under makeshift canopies or overhanging trees, where the locals eat. They rely on fast turnover and, more often than not, are where the best food can be found. Dishes are served from large conical pots called handis and breads are cooked to order at a furious pace.”
If, before the pandemic, Tasting India would have inspired you to book a trip to India to sample and savour Indian cuisines with Christine, then Indian Cooking Class is going to inspire you to settle into your kitchen and learn how to really cook Indian food with its step-by-step instructions.
It’s a cookbook made for the pandemic. We’re all still mostly at home and spending a lot of that home-time in our kitchens cooking. And with Covid-19 cases increasing in many countries, and Omicron now spreading like wildfire around the world, it’s likely we’ll all be spending a lot of time home again.
This book will take your mind off the news and give you the skills to cook comforting food that is deeply-flavoured and perfumed with warming spices.
If you’re looking for further distraction and are not familiar with Christine’s work, here are more of her many fabulous cookbooks and guides: Paramount Cooking (2000), Christine Manfield’s Desserts (2004), Spice: Recipes to Delight the Senses (2007), Fire: A World of Flavour (2009), Tasting India (2011), and A Personal Guide To India And Bhutan (2015).
Now let me tell you about Christine Manfield’s tamarind eggplant recipe from Rajasthan.
Tips to Making this Tamarind Eggplant Recipe from Rajasthan
We cooked this deliciously addictive tamarind eggplant recipe from Christine Manfield’s cookbook Indian Cooking Class last week and it was wonderful – as you can see from Terence’s images.
Like her chickpea curry recipe, Christine’s tamarind eggplant recipe was super easy to follow – even without the step-by-step instructions and images that are scattered through her Indian Cooking Class.
Just a few quick notes and tips to making this tamarind eggplant recipe.
Christine’s tamarind eggplant recipe calls for large 300 gram eggplants. We couldn’t source eggplants that big so used pieces half that size and the dish worked out just fine.
There are also only two of us and this dish serves six, so we scaled things back, and yet still had enough tamarind eggplant for two meals.
I made the tamarind sauce first and left it to simmer while I fried the eggplants so they still had a little crunch to them.
Apart from scaling down the ingredients, I just made one adjustment to Christine’s tamarind eggplant recipe and reduced the amount of brown sugar. The recipe calls for 150 grams, but even after having scaled back ingredients to make a smaller portion, that was too much sweetness for us.
The tamarinds here in Cambodia that we use to make the tamarind puree are also sweeter than sour, so you may not need to do this if your tamarinds are more on the sour side.
I recommend following Christine’s tamarind eggplant recipe the first time – she’s the expert, after all! – and adjusting if needed the next time, as there will be a next time you make this dish.
Christine says in the recipe’s introduction: “Serve it with other vegetable dishes on a shared table or as an accompaniment to grilled fish or barbecued meats.”
We served it with a delicious ribs dish from the cookbook, along with raita, paratha, and a Rajasthani kabuli, a festive rice dish studded with dried fruit, cashews, almonds, and pistachios. We’ll try Christine’s suggestions next time.
Tamarind Eggplant Recipe
- 600 ml vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 4 300 g purple eggplants quartered lengthwise and cut into 3 cm pieces
- 3 small red onions peeled and finely diced
- 5 small green chillies minced
- 8 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp fresh curry leaves
- 150 g brown sugar
- 400 ml tamarind puree
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 4 to matoes seeded and diced
- 1 cup chopped coriander leaves
- 3 tbsp fried shallot slices
- Heat the oil in a wok or large pot to 180ºC.
- Fry the eggplant, in batches, for 4–5 minutes or until golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Set aside. Reserve the oil.
- To make the tamarind sauce, heat ⅓ cup (80 ml) of the reserved oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion, chilli and garlic and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute or until beginning to colour.
- Add the curry leaves and cook for 1 minute or until wilted.
- Add the sugar, tamarind, cumin and salt and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning, if necessary. There should be equal balance between the sweet, sour and salty flavours.
- Add the fried eggplant, stir to coat thoroughly and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir through the diced tomato and coriander leaves.
- Scatter with fried shallot slices to serve.
The recipe for this tamarind eggplant recipe is from Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class (rrp A$59.99) published by Simon & Schuster Australia, and has been used with the publisher’s permission.
The images are not from Christine’s book, but are of the tamarind eggplant recipe that we made, shot by Terence Carter.
Please do let us know if you make this tamarind eggplant recipe in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.
Melissa Chambers says
Made this along with the bread and rice and it was a wonderful vegetarian feast.
I have one question. Why does she use brown sugar instead of jaggery? Surely you can get it at an Asian market in Australia? If I used jaggery, would it be the same amount as the brown sugar?
Your photo looks lovely BTW.
Lara Dunston says
Hello Melissa, I cannot answer that question, but I will ask Christine and report back. I’m guessing it’s because jaggery is not easy to source in Australia, and Christine is trying to make her recipes as accessible as possible and not discourage readers but let me check with her. We haven’t been home to Australia in a few years due to the pandemic, so not sure on availability. We have easy access to palm sugar, which is essentially jaggery, here in Cambodia, so not sure how they compare. We used palm sugar for this recipe. I will check with Christine and leave her response here. Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment, Melissa, and thanks for the kind words re Terence’s photography. I will let him know. Happy new year!