Both the eggplant slices and the lentil sauce can be prepared the day before, if you want to get ahead. In fact, you can make the whole dish a day ahead, up until before it goes into the oven, then chill in the fridge and just bring to room temperature before warming up. The coconut dal is a great recipe in its own right. Double it, if you like, and serve with curry-crusted rutabaga steaks and some rice.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 5 (250g) shallots peeled and finely chopped
- 1 1/2oz (45g) fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 2 red chilies finely chopped
- 30 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp medium curry powder
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup (100g) dried red lentils
- 1 x 13 1/2oz (400ml) can full fat coconut milk
- 2 1/2 cups (600ml) water
- 3/4 tsp table salt
- 8oz (220g) paneer (or extra firm tofu) roughly grated
- 2 limes finely zest for 1 tsp, then juice to get 2 tbsp
- 1 1/2 oz (45g) hot mango pickle roughly chopped, plus more to serve
- 1/4 (5g) cilantro roughly chopped, plus more to serve
- 3 1/2oz (100g) large spinach leaves stems removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/220°C fan. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, toss the eggplants with the olive oil, ¾ tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until softened and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
For the dal:
- Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for 8 minutes, until golden.
- Add the ginger, half the chili, and half the curry leaves (if using) and cook for 2 minutes, then add all the spices, tomato paste, and lentils. Stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick.
- Pour into a 7 x 11 inch/28 x 18cm baking dish and set aside.
- In a small bowl, toss together the paneer, lime zest, 1 tbsp. of the lime juice, the mango pickle, cilantro, and ⅛tsp salt.
- Place one spinach leaf on top of each slice of eggplant. Put a heaping 1 tsp of the paneer mixture in the middle, then roll up the eggplant, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the filling is encased.
- Put the eggplant roll seam-side down in the lentil sauce and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, spinach, and paneer. You should end up with about eighteen rolls, all sitting snugly in the sauce. Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged, and bake for 15–20 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Heat the 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small pan on medium-high heat. Add the remaining chili and curry leaves and fry for 1 minute, until the curry leaves are crisp and fragrant. Spoon over the eggplant rolls, drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp. lime juice, and serve with cilantro sprinkled on top.
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