Spiced aubergine and tamarind rice

Spiced aubergine and tamarind rice

Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast
Emma Lee

This is a really delicious, South Indian-inspired rice dish. The style is typical of the region, with its spicy robust flavours. It is normally made with a coarser, whiter rice of that region, but I use basmati as it is the easiest to find and works well. If you have a hardier rice, now is a good time to use it! This is not supposed to be a fluffy rice dish, in fact it is normally slightly wet and sloppy, but I have made it somewhere in between. It is really moreish and needs little more than some yogurt on the side.


Quantity Ingredient

For the rice

Quantity Ingredient
350g basmati rice
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10-12 fresh curry leaves
1 large-ish onion, sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2-1 teaspoon chilli powder
36 long japanese aubergines, cut into 2–3 pieces depending on length
2 teaspoons tamarind paste, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
2 handfuls coriander leaves, chopped
2 handfuls fresh coconut, grated, (optional)

For the spice blend

Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons bengal gram, well washed
1 tablespoon black gram, well washed
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
7cm cinnamon stick
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
2/3 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
12 black peppercorns


  1. Wash the rice well in several changes of water and leave to soak in enough water to cover well.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and, once the popping dies down, add the curry leaves and the onion; cook until the onion starts to colour on the edges. Add the garlic and cook over a gentle flame for 40 seconds or until the garlic starts to colour. Add the tomato, salt, turmeric and chilli powder with a splash of water and cook over a medium-high flame, stirring often, for four to five minutes.
  3. Drain the rice, then add it and the aubergines to the pan and give them a good stir in the spices. Add 375 ml of water, bring to the boil, then cover and cook over a really low flame until the rice has cooked through, around eight to 10 minutes.
  4. As the rice cooks, roast your spices. Heat a frying pan (I use a small cast-iron pancake pan), add the Bengal gram and cook, stirring often, until they turn a lovely golden brown; pour into a spice grinder or mortar. Add the smaller lentils to the pan and repeat until these have gently browned; add to the spice grinder. Add the remaining spices to the pan and roast, shaking, until the cumin and coriander have darkened and are aromatic. Add to the lentils and grind to a powder.
  5. Once the rice has cooked, uncover and add the spice powder and tamarind. Stir well with a fork, adjusting the seasoning as you do. Then cover and leave to steam, off the heat, for a few minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander and sprinkle over the coconut, if using.
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