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Leiths Advent - DEC 5 - Vegetarian Winter Dish from Jenny Chandler

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Leiths Advent - DEC 5 - Vegetarian Winter Dish from Jenny Chandler

Super Pulses by Jenny Chandler, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Clare Winfield.

With turkey and pigs in blankets at the forefront of the festive season, it's easy to slip into that familiar, unwelcomed meat coma. Jenny Chandler is here to give us a breath of fresh air and help us through the winter with her pulse-based Keralan aubergine recipe from her latest book, Super Pulses.


Serves 4

3 large or 8–12 baby, egg-shaped aubergines (eggplants)
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
2 onions, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm/2inch piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
100g/3 ½oz/ ½ cup red split lentils (masoor dal), rinsed
½ tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
3 tbsp dairy or coconut yogurt
3–4 tbsp tamarind paste
Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
3 tbsp cashew nuts, roasted
Flatbreads or rice, to serve

On the top (optional)
2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
4 dried chillies


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Prick the aubergines once or twice, brush with a little oil, and roast in the oven until they are soft (about 30 minutes for regular aubergines, 15 minutes for the egg-size ones). Cool for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions gently until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes and, once you are enveloped by the wafts of garlic, tip in the lentils and enough water to cover by 5cm/2 inches. Simmer the lentils for about 20 minutes, until they are soft and creamy. Stir in the cumin and season with salt.
  3. Cut the large aubergines lengthways into quarters. For the egg-shaped aubergines, hold them by their stalks and make vertical slashes, leaving the base and top intact. Push down on the stalk, and the skin will open up like a Chinese lantern. Add the aubergines to the lentils, pushing them down halfway.
  4. Dollop over the yogurt and tamarind. Don’t stir them in, the idea is to get bursts of different flavours. Sprinkle with coriander and cashews. Just before serving, melt the ghee, and heat the mustard seeds and dried chillies until they sizzle and pop. Tip over the aubergines and eat with Indian flatbreads or rice.

Small, egg-shaped aubergines are often available in Indian grocer’s and are worth seeking out for this dish. They look beautiful, opened out like paper lanterns.

Jenny Chandler

Author: Jenny Chandler

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