Whenever I make an Indian curry, I like to also make some bhaji. In my husband’s family, this term is used to describe leafy green vegetables: bok choy, mustard greens, spinach, etc. While basic Indian greens are tasty and simple to make, I’ve learned to add other vegetables to the mix, creating new flavors and textures that compliment meat curries and add variety to our half-Indian diet.
Eggplant (baigan) is not my favorite vegetable, but I like how it adds a smooth, velvety texture to other vegetable dishes. It has a fairly neutral flavor, and it also works as a thickener in dal and aloo baigan (eggplant with potatoes). And it is an inexpensive way to add a bit of nutrition and bulk to cooked spinach.
For this recipe, I used two small Chinese eggplants, but you could probably use any variety that you can find. You will cook all the vegetables extremely well so that they melt together into a delightful side dish.
- 3-4 Tbsp coconut oil (you will need quite a bit to keep the vegetables from browning and/or sticking to the pan)
- ½-¾ tsp. jeera mix
- ½ medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 large or 2 small Chinese eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 2-inch pieces (about 1½ cups) **Note: eggplant will brown quickly once it has been cut; either cut it right before you add it to the pan, or put the cut pieces into a bowl of cold water until you are ready to use it.
- sea salt, to taste
- 1 small/medium tomato, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
- 3-6 Thai chilies, sliced lengthwise, to taste
- 6-8 cups spinach (I used baby spinach)
- Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. I recommend using a nonstick for this since you will be cooking the vegetables for a long time and you don’t want them to brown or stick to the pan.
- When the oil shimmers, add the jeera mix and let it pop a little. Then add the onion and stir well.
- Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften, but not brown.
- Add the sliced eggplant and some sea salt (maybe ½ tsp.), then stir and cover. Cook covered until the eggplant changes color (from purple to a light brownish color) and becomes soft, stirring occasionally. This may take 10-15 minutes.
- When eggplant is soft and can be easily smashed with the back of a wooden spoon, add the diced tomatoes, the garlic, and the chilies. Cover and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, until the tomato is soft and can be easily smashed with the back of your spoon.
- If your tomato-eggplant mixture gets dry or starts to brown, add a little water and keep covered. You can also turn down the heat and let it cook more slowly.
- When the eggplant and tomatoes get soft and start to meld together, add the spinach and stir well. Cover again and let cook on medium-low heat until the spinach is dark green and very soft. At this point, all of the vegetables should be very well-cooked and blended together. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
- Serve alongside your favorite meat curry. Enjoy!