Do you ever get so many ideas you feel your head’ll explode? Are they ideas or are they impulses originating outside commonplace cognition? This happens to me countless times. I tend to reconcile my humming brain, defying rest at 12 midnight, cross-sectioning recipes. Recipes from my favourite chefs, similar recipes with links across continents; I identify a root, eliminate the superfluous and draw together various elements I like the sound of. True, the result can be confused…but then I refine, improve. That’s the stickler in me at work. Well, everyone’s got their weird fetishes. Ask me where the idea for these aubergine bhajis came from, I’d have to answer ‘a good many fixated nights’.
It would be remiss of me to now not pay credit to the great chefs that inspire me, not just in the creation of this recipe, but in the myriad of other experiments I enjoy to cook and bake as well. Ottolenghi, Helen Goh, Anna Jones, Jamie Oliver, Sarit Packer, Itamar Srulovich, Rose Levy Beranbaum.
Serves 3 to 4
6 baby aubergines
100g chickpea flour
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
2 to 3 tsp your favourite savoury chilli sauce (I make my own pilpechuma from ancho chillis and smoked paprika)
1 bunch fresh coriander
6 tbsps crunchy peanut butter
a good squeeze of Marmite (or a couple tbsps soy sauce)
oil and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Make two deep cuts in the base of each aubergine shaped like a cross and place in a baking tray. Coat generously in oil and season with black pepper (leave the stalks on).
Roast in oven for 20-30 mins or until completely soft.
Meanwhile, finely slice the onion and caramelise in a frying pan until golden brown.
In a blender, combine the spices, ginger, chilli sauce and coriander stalks (save the leaves for garnish) until smooth.
Mix the spice paste with the peanut butter and Marmite or soy sauce.
Add the chickpea flour and enough kefir to create a thick batter the consistency of thick honey.
Stir in the caramelised onions.
Once the aubergines are cooked, fill a deep saucepan with around 3cm of oil, keeping the oven on with the temperature reduced to 180.
Wait for the oil to heat until a string of tiny bubbles flow freely from the tip of a chopstick when pressed to the bottom of the pan and the aubergines have cooled enough to handle. Then, take one aubergine at a time and, while holding the stalk, dip, cut side down, into the batter, aiming to stuff as much filling into the cross shaped opening as possible.
Carefully lower into the oil. Repeat with remaining aubergines.
Fry for 3-4 mins then remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil, then transfer to the oven to keep warm and ensure the bhajis are cooked through.
Serve with coriander leaves.