A Twist on Traditional Gravy: Kalia Gravy served on Eggplants/Aubergines
The holiday season when I was a kid was not one revolving around traditions. Most Christmas eves were spent just among our small family with good food and, when midnight would strike, gift giving. Well maybe that is a tradition in itself but there was certainly no set menu that we would stick to every year. When the weather was good, we would even have barbecues outside on Christmas eve and spend Christmas day at the beach in the heat of 32 degrees Celsius. But very often the hot tropical weather gave way to heavy rain during this time of the year. I only started enjoying colder Holiday seasons when I moved to the Northern hemisphere where the need for a warm cozy meal is more than welcome.
Kalia is usually a curry dish that Mauritius has undoubtedly inherited from northern India. Calling for meat or fish and yogurt, the original recipe is not even remotely vegan. That said, it is very easy to veganise using coconut milk with lemon juice and substituting the meat with vegetables. This version of the recipe however features the kalia sauce to be used as gravy over roasted or pan-cooked vegetables as a side dish rather than a main curry dish. If you like anything spicy, this is a nice twist to a traditional gravy at your holiday table.
If you need a larger batch of this sauce, you can use 2 cans of coconut milk and increase the spices by 1 1/2 times (not twice!). Also, the recipe is an onion and garlic-free version because I do not consume these but I have indicated in the recipe where to add them in if you wish to use them.
Eggplant/Aubergine with Kalia Gravy
4 baby eggplants/aubergines
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for cooking)
1 can coconut milk (use a thick and creamy one)
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
5-6 cardamom pods
1 pinch chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 hot green chili (I used a jalapeno chili)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon soft brown sugar
10 sprigs mint leaves (about 1 cup when finely chopped)
10 sprigs coriander leaves (cilantro) (about 2 cups when finely chopped)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic (if using)
1 small onion (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped (if using)
Cook the eggplants/aubergines:
- Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Make 2 slits in the flesh across the length and a few slits across to make a check pattern.
- Heat the oil in a large pan.
- Place eggplants in the pan with the flesh facing down.
- Cook for about 3 – 4 minutes then turn them over. Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
- Then turn them over again and cover and let cook for about 8 – 10 minutes. Occasionally check on them during that time. If the eggplants are burning, add a little water and cover again.
- To check if they are cooked, insert a fork into the flesh. If it glides in easily, the eggplants are done. If it feels spongy and slightly resistant, allow them to cook for a little longer. Remove the ones that are cook and continue like so until all is cooked.
- Set them aside while we make the sauce.
- Finely chop the herbs.
- In a fry pan, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add in the onions (if using). Cook until onions are translucent. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In a dry saucepan (do not add any oil), add the garam masala and cumin. Let these roast on medium heat for a couple of minutes, taking care not to let them burn.
- Next add the ginger (and garlic, if using) and cook for about 10 seconds.
- Add in the coconut milk. Mix well with the spices.
- Then add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, turmeric, chili powder, lemon juice, green chili and pre-cooked onions (if using).
- Add half of the herbs (mint and coriander/cilantro).
- Add salt to taste (or about 1 teaspoon). Add the soft brown sugar.
- Mix well then cover and lower the heat. Let this simmer for about 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add the rest of the herbs and let the sauce cook for another 5 minutes. At this stage you can adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding a little water or some more non-dairy milk.
- Turn off heat.
- To serve, top the eggplants with the sauce. Garnish with some mint or coriander leaves and a slice of lemon.