Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry (Vegan – Vegetarian)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

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vromans back

OK – this dish is really easy to make & wildly delicious!  And – you get to smoke it yourself in just five minutes!  This is a really cool new trick I learned & I cannot wait to find new ways to use it.

All you need is a piece of natural charcoal (without lighter fluid or chemicals) – like this:

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You heat it up on the stove – like this:

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There is one more step but I will get back to that later.  There are a few steps involved in the overall recipe but all are very easy!  And the only “exotic” ingredient is the garam masala.  If you cannot find it or don’t feel like looking for it – you can make it from stuff you likely already have.  Look for recipes HERE.


This recipe really makes quite a lot of this stuff – enough for four – more if you serve it with rice or naan or roti.   If you don’t have lots of folks to feed & don’t want yummy leftovers – cut the recipe in half – at least.  I like my Indian food very flavorful & I tend to double or triple the amount of spices that traditional recipes typically suggest.  I will post this recipe with a suggested amount of each thing & then tell you what I used.  This dish is spicy but not crazy spicy – but I do like heat.  If you have a more tender palate – be conservative.

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Oh – and check out this tip on how to cut an onion without crying!

Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry

Feeds 4 generously – served with rice


2 small onions – diced

1 red bell pepper – seeded & diced

6 medium tomatoes

30 raw almonds (or raw cashews)

3+ TBS ghee (or butter or olive oil if you are vegan)

2 lb eggplant (any variety) – cubed

1-2 TBS ginger – minced (I used 2 but mine was jarred.  Maybe go lighter if you are using freshly grated ginger)

4-10 garlic cloves – minced (I used 10)

1-2 TBS garam masala (I used 2)

1-3 tsp chili powder (I used 3)

Cilantro – as garnish

(serve with steamed rice or naan or roti or tortillas)

for smoking the eggplant curry

1 lump of coal about the size of a lemon or larger

2 TBS olive or vegetable oil

1 small METAL bowl to safely hold the hot charcoal

You also need a large saute pan & some sort of cover.  I used my wok cover.

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Soak the nuts in some water for 5 minutes.  I used this metal dog food dish & used it again later in the smoking process.

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Meanwhile – poke some holes in your tomatoes with the tip of a knife & drop them into boiling water.  After a few minutes – you will see the skins curling off.  Drain & run under cool water until you can handle them without burning yourself.  Then core them.

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Drain the nuts & then puree them in a blender with the tomatoes.  Set aside.

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Heat 3 TBS of the ghee or butter or olive oil in a large saute pan – large enough to hold ALL the ingredients.   Over med-high heat – saute the onions & red bell pepper & eggplant.  Saute until the eggplant begins to brown.  Add more ghee (or butter or olive oil) if needed.  I probably added another 1-2 TBS in the process.  This should take about 10 minutes. Raise the heat a bit if the eggplant doesn’t begin to brown after 10 minutes.

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Add the garam masala & chili powder & the ginger – stir to incorporate.  Add the garlic & stir for one minute – then add the tomato puree.  Boil this for about 5-7 minutes until it thickens.  If it gets too thick – add a bit of water.

When it looks about like this:

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TURN OFF THE HEAT & put your metal bowl in the center of the pan.

Now – heat up the charcoal – like this:

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When it is red hot or graying on the outside – USE METAL TONGS & put it in the bowl in the center of your curry.  Then pour some olive or vegetable oil on it  It will immediately begin smoking so – if you have a hood with vents – turn them on.   Quickly – cover it up with a pot cover of some sort.  I used my old & very beaten up wok cover.

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Let this sit for 5-10 minutes & let the smoke work its magic.  I went 6 minutes because I was afraid it would be too smoky.  It wasn’t.  In the future – I will go for ten minutes.  CAREFULLY remove the metal bowl – with two pairs of tongs.  DO NOT BURN YOURSELF!

DEFINITELY season this with salt.  Do not be shy – but add it in increments.  Salt is under-rated as a spice.

Then – just serve this over some rice or with naan or a tortilla or roti – garnished with some cilantro.

Awesome?  Right?

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