Aubergine “tikka masala” with chickpea dumplings

My family kindly bought me a “spicebox” subscription from The Spicery for Christmas so every month I receive a box with a lovely recipe from around the world and the spices to make it with.  When I received Murgh Mahkani (like a sophisticated chicken tikka masala) I had the challenge of making the yoghurt and cream rich recipe dairy free so that I could enjoy it.  I decided to substitute in mashed silken tofu for the yoghurt and coconut cream for the cream, which added a decidedly unusual element to the dish, fusing some of the flavours I associate with Indian and Thai curries together.  I then wanted to see if I could go one step further and make the dish vegan, while still retaining the interesting different textures and making it wholesome and satisfying while also being light and lower fat than the traditionally butter rich tikka masala curries.  My solution was a light but creamy aubergine curry accompanied by crispy little chickpea dumplings.  It probably can’t be classed as “authentic” Indian cuisine but that didn’t stop us enjoying it!

Aubergine “tikka masala”

Time: 30 minutes to prep ahead, 10-15 minutes cooking time on the night

Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free

Serves 2-4 (you can bulk it out by serving with rice or naan breads, though if you use naan breads it may no longer be vegan or gluten-free)

  • 75g silken tofu, mashed, with a splash of water if needed
  • Marinade spice mix (1 tsp each of coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, amchur, mint, ½ tsp each of chilli (Kashmiri if you can get it), ajowan)
  • ½ tsp.salt
  • 1 aubergine, in bites sized chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ~2tsp ginger, chopped
  • Curry spice mix (ground fenugreek (also called methi), coriander, garam masala, turmeric, ½ tsp each ground green cardamom seeds, chilli (Kashmiri if you can get it), ground cloves)
  • 300ml water
  • 2tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 50ml coconut cream
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt to season

Chickpea dumplings

  • 1X400g can chickpeas
  • 50g gram flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100ml water
  • Marinade spice mix (1 tsp each of coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, amchur, mint, ½ tsp each of chilli (Kashmiri if you can get it), ajowan)

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  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan.
  2. Mix together the mashed tofu, one lot of the marinade spice mix, and salt then stir in the aubergine and leave to marinate.
  3. Blend or mash all the dumpling ingredients to a smooth paste (this is most easily done in a food processor).
  4. Put the chopped garlic and ginger in a frying pan with enough water to cover the bottom and cook on a medium heat for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the curry spice mix, stir together then add the aubergine with all of its marinade and cook on a slow heat for 10 minutes, adding more water if it starts to stick.
  6. Spoon out heaped tsp of the dumpling mix onto a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes.  They should be crispy and slightly browned on the outside but still soft on the inside (and with no uncooked flour taste!).
  7. Add the water, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the aubergine is very soft and the tomatoes have broken down.
  8. Stir the coconut cream into the aubergine, season with the salt and lemon juice, and serve with the dumplings. This also goes really nicely with a spicy tomato based chutney (see baked onion bhajis) and cucumber pickle (see below).

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the aubergine curry and keep in a box in the fridge for a few days.  In fact, this time allows the flavours to develop more.
  • Make the chickpea dumpling mix and keep in a box in the fridge for a few days, then just spoon it out onto the baking tray and cook on the night.
  • Prepare sides, such as pickles and chutney ahead of time and store in boxes in the fridge.
  • Make 3-4 time the amount of the two spice mixes you need and keep in airtight boxes so you can make the whole curry again more quickly in the future, or add them to other curries, lentil burgers etc.

Some tasty little extras…

There is a wealth of Indian side dishes that would go beautifully with this curry to turn it into a feast, from pilau or biryani rice, chapatis and naan breads, to chutney, raita or crunchy salad.  Here is one of our favourite side dishes, a quick and simple cumber pickle which is beautifully tangy and cooling and also goes well on the side of many other asian dishes.  This recipe makes a big batch which keeps in the fridge for about a week and can be bought out to go with whatever you are having or used to liven up salads throughout the week.  If you just want it for just one dish make up just half a cucumber rather than 2 cucumbers.  However, you can make up the full quantity of vinegar, keep that in a bottle to add to cucumber whenever you want it to make it faster to make the pickle in the future.  Once you have finished the cucumber you can then use the left over pickle vinegar to make a tasty salad dressing so that you don’t waste a thing.

Cucumber pickle

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 200-300ml rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp dill seeds (feel free to experiment with different seed combinations by switching the dill and nigella for other seeds such as cumin, corriander, mustard, fennel or ajowan to find your personal favourite)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  1. Cut the cucumbers in half lenthways and finely slice into semicircles (we do this in the food processor to save time) and put into an airtight box.
  2. Put the seeds, chilli flakes, salt and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for a few minutes then pour over the cucumber.
  3. This keeps very well in the fridge for about a week.

“Not a drop wasted” salad dressing

  • 1 quantity cucumber pickle vinegar, left over after finishing all the pickled cucumber
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
  • A dash of rice vinegar or lemon juice to taste, optional
  1. Bring the vinegar to the boil and simmer for about 2-3 minutes to reduce the liquid down (quite a lot of cucumber water will have seeped into the vinegar).
  2. Add the soy sauce, and a dash of extra rice vinegar or lemon juice to taste.
  3. Keep in an airtight box in the fridge and use to dress salads, particularly to accompany asian food.
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