Eggplant Kasundi Recipe

 

It feels quite special to be invited to share my kasundi recipe and it’s story in the Food Writers NZ Newsletter. Click here to read it

Lot Eight Oil's Nalini Baruch is a big fan of eggplant prepared every which way, and particularly in this addictive kasundi. 

I love eggplants. Maybe it is because I grew up unable to eat eggplants. While everyone enjoyed baingan chokha (similar to babaganoush), aloo baigan (potato and eggplant curry) and baigan pakora(eggplant pakora), I could only watch from the sidelines. Occasionally, I would sneak a taste only to have my eye lids swell into red puff balls and for huge itchy welts to appear on my body. This would last a day or two. Growing up in an Indian family, there could not be a greater punishment than this. It was only when I arrived in New Zealand in my late teens that I stopped reacting to eggplants. At that point, I knew that this would be my forever-home.

I also grew up with pickling as a seasonal ritual. Mangoes, jackfruit, starfruit and amra (hog plum) were pickled in quantities to last all year around. Curries are almost always served accompanied with one or two pickles. I first came across kasundi in the 1980s when an Indo-Iraqi friend introduced me to her version. Her Indian-born, Portuguese father loved his kasundi. Asian eggplants could not be readily found in New Zealand back then and the melongena tasted bland to our palates, and so we spent many summers perfecting the recipe using an eggplant variety that was unfamiliar to both of us. My masala mix and her pickling style resulted in the recipe I still use today.  
 
I make kasundi without the help of a written recipe and recording this recipe has certainly tested my ability to share it with anyone who has never made an eggplant kasundi. I am truly grateful to Sam Heeney (Love-to-Cook) for allowing me to use her as my uninitiated recipe tester. 
 
I can eat a kasundi with a wide range of dishes, but for anyone unfamiliar with this delicious pickle, serve it with curries or Persian and Mediterranean dishes (either meat-based or vegetarian). Also try it with a dollop of Greek yogurt with mini poppadums as pass-arounds.  

Eggplant Kasundi

  • 3 large eggplants (net weight of approximately 900g)
  • ¾ plus ½ cups olive oil or blend ½ cup extra virgin olive oil with ¾ cup good vegetable oil
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 4cm piece of ginger
  • 1 or 2 chillies (I use birdseye, which can be very hot)
  • 3 tsp plus 2 tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1½ tsp coriander seeds
  • 1½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • stalks and leaves of a bunch of coriander
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp brown sugar

Preparation

  • Dice eggplants into approximately centimetre cubes. Sprinkle with 3 tsps. of salt, toss and stand for 20-30 minutes. Wash, drain and transfer onto a clean kitchen towel. Fold the ends of the towel and give the eggplants a tight squeeze to drain as much of the water as possible.
  • Mix fennel, cumin, coriander, mustard, fenugreek and peppercorns in a small, heavy frying pan and place the pan over medium to low flame. Shake the pan occasionally to avoid burning. They are ready when the spices are a few shades darker and you can smell the aroma of the spices. This shouldn’t take more than 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a fine consistency. Cooks Note: It is important not to burn the spices as they will compromise the taste of the kasundi.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, make a paste of the garlic, ginger, chillies and 2 tsp of salt. Cover and set aside.
  • Finely dice the onion and set aside.
  • Finely chop the coriander stalks and leaves and set aside.
  • Mix the vinegar and sugar and set aside.

Method

  • Heat ¾ cup of oil in a large, non-reactive, wide-based pan. When the oil is sizzling hot, add a single layer of eggplants and brown the eggplants without fully cooking them. This shouldn’t take more than 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggplants into a colander to drain excess oil. Repeat these steps until all eggplant is browned.
  • Drain the oil, wipe the pan and return it to the cooktop. A clean pan avoids the risk of residual solids overcooking as the pan reheats.
  • Heat the remaining ½ cup of oil on medium to high heat. Add the onions and the wet paste. Stir to cook for 2–3 minutes.
  • Add the eggplants and stir to coat well.
  • Add the ground dry spice mix, nigella, turmeric and fresh coriander. Stir well and add the sugar-vinegar mix.
  • Stir to combine fully and cook uncovered on a medium to low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Check for salt and adjust as required. Stir a few times to avoid the solids catching.
  • Allow the mixture to cool, spoon into clean sterilised jars and if required, top with extra olive oil to fully cover the eggplants.
  • Refrigerate. The kasundi should be ready to eat in a week’s time. When refrigerated, it will keep for 2–3 months. 
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Matt Calder