We are feeling the heat in Abu Dhabi these days and it seems that summers are here all too soon. Mazhar says that the morning walk from our building’s entrance to his car – all 20 seconds of it – is like walking into a hot clay oven (Tandoor). This is at 8:30am! As you can imagine his day just keeps getting hotter and harder from there. I do have to say that I’m lucky I get to stay indoors during the day. We have a sunny apartment but sunlight doesn’t come in directly after around 10-10:30am. So I get to cool down the house with just a little air-conditioning during the day.
Needless to say that in all this heat, one does enjoy eating light and refreshing foods rather than the heavy, oily and meaty meals that Mr. Mazhar – the carnivore – wouldn’t do without. And it is at his request that for dinner tonight I am making black lentils, boiled rice and baigan ka raita (translated as: eggplant and yogurt dressing). The hot lentil soup and rice are refreshingly cooled down with the raita. And it is a delight to enjoy the cooling sensation on one’s palate.
I LOVE yogurt. I can eat it with anything or on its own, in its pure, unadulterated form or mixed in with herbs and spices. I spoon it down by the mouthfuls at any given time of the day. When we sit down for lunch/dinner with some of our extended family, Mazhar always makes the last call for the yogurt/raita on the table and when everyone has had their share or they decline he offers the whole bowl to me and says “Begum sahiba, it’s all yours” and I lick the bowl clean 🙂
This raita is one of my absolute favorite dishes to make with yogurt. I grew up loving to eat it but since I tried my hand at making it I’ve gotten such rave reviews that it is one of the staples on my dinner table during the summers. My brother-in-law, who lives in Dubai, calls me to make sure that I am making this raita when they are coming over for a visit. I made it when we had Mazhar’s work colleague come over for dinner once and afterwards Mazhar told me that I had the balance of flavour in this raita down to perfection. Which makes me very happy indeed as it seems to be one of very few ways to get some vegetables inside Mr. Mazhar carnivorous belly!
As with most of the things I try my hand at this is easy peasy. I don’t get into any recipe more than five steps long and I certainly don’t enjoy making things that need for 3 individual dishes to be cooked separately and then combined at the end! I can’t bring myself to do it. It’s just not my thing. I love one pot wonders and this recipe is no exception. Here it comes.
- 500gm eggplant, small, thin ones
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 bunch of mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp distilled vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- Lemon juice, to taste
- 250-300gm low-fat yogurt, whipped
- 2 tbsp low-fat/skimmed milk
- 2 tbsp water
- Pinch of salt and black pepper powder
- 1-2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 4-5 round dried red chillies, whole
- 2-4 curry leaves
- 1/2 tsp cumin, whole
- Fill a medium pot with enough water to cover the eggplants. I say cover loosely, because the eggplants tend to float on the surface. The idea is that you need enough to water for them to keep boiling thill they are tender all the way through. This is one reason I don’t recommend using the large, stout eggplants for this recipe. You will have to boil them for quite long before the insides cook through and I fear the outside is going to be water-logged and mushy by then. I boil the eggplants on a medium heat for at least 40-45 minutes but keep checking on them and turning them over. As soon as you are able to see them become limp and are able to pierce them easily with a fork. They are done. Drain them in a colander and allow to cool down.
- Once completely cooled, take the top and skin off the eggplants. Cut the soft fleshy bits of the insides into small chunks and place in a large bowl. Whip them up with a fork or use a stick blender to make them into a paste of sorts.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients in with the eggplants and mix well. Taste for seasoning to be a balance between salty and sour. At this stage you use the amount of paste you’d like and freeze the rest for use later. Just defrost it in the fridge when you want to use it again and follow the last step below.
- In a separate bowl whip up the yogurt along with the milk, water, salt and black pepper. You want it to have a slightly runny consistency because once you add the eggplant into the yogurt it dies thicken up a bit. I would add about 3-4 tablespoons of the eggplant purée into 300gms of yogurt but you do have to judge it by the eye. Have a taste and you should be able to pick up on the slight heat of the onion, chillies and spices, the sharpness of the mint and the tangy sourness of the vinegar and lemon. But the overall effect should be cooling of your palate. The raita is now ready.
- Final step! Just before serving, heat the ghee in a small frying pan and add the garlic. Once it starts to brown add in the red chillies, fry for 30 seconds and then add the curry leaves and cumin. Fry for another 30 seconds. Take it off the heat and spoon it over the raita. It will sizzle and spat so be careful when you do this. Enjoy!