Sri Lankan Eggplant Pickle
1 kg/2 lb eggplants (aubergines)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
oil for frying
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground fennel
125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup tamarind pulp
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup hot water
3 fresh green chillies, seeded and sliced
8 cm/3 in cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
extra salt to taste
Wash, dry but do not peel eggplants. Slice eggplants thinly, rub with salt and turmeric, put in a bowl and leave for at least 1 hour. Drain off liquid and blot eggplants dry on paper towels. Heat about 2.5 cm (1 in) oil in a frying pan and fry eggplant slices quite slowly until brown on both sides. Lift out with slotted spoon and put in a dry bowl. Reserve oil.
Put mustard seeds and vinegar in a blender container, cover and blend on high speed until mustard is ground. Add onion, garlic and ginger, cover and blend again until a smooth paste. Set aside.
Put coriander, cumin and fennel in a small dry pan and heat gently, shaking pan or stirring, until medium brown in colour. If preferred, substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons Ceylon curry powder.
Squeeze tamarind pulp in hot water, strain and discard seeds, reserve liquid.
Heat 1/2 cup reserved oil and fry blended mixture for 5 minutes. Add toasted spices or Ceylon curry powder, chillies, cinnamon, chilli powder if used and tamarind liquid. Add fried eggplant and any oil that has collected in the bowl, stir well, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sugar. Add extra salt if necessary. Cool thoroughly and store in clean dry jars.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)