Staying cool

Mallika Basu - Staying cool

Posted 9th August 2007

aubergine-raita.jpgInner city summer. London. What an adventure.

I start the day under someone’s armpit on the underground. Try and grab proper lunch at the only al fresco diner and fail. Drink warm Pimms squashed against a wall outside my local pub after work. And finally share the city’s green spots with half of London’s 7.5 million inhabitants at the weekend.

Unless I am lucky enough to get away for the weekend or even longer. With the remaining half of the population.

Truthfully, I can’t wait for my long weekend in Cannes, South of France. But until then, food is the only respite. And I will stay committed to the simple classics that breathe cool into Indian cuisine.

Raita is one of them. A ice-cold, savoury dish, raita is spiced yogurt with vegetables and even eggs. You can have cucumber and mint raita, mixed vegetable raita, boondi raita and potato raita. It’s almost always served as a side dish in my family home in Kolkata to complete summer meals.

I made aubergine raita recently. A simple assembly job, the bit that takes time is the frying of aubergines. My simple trick is to soak the sliced aubergines in cold water for up to two hours if you can. Their pores soak up the water, helping them cook quickly in oil later, while spluttering furiously.

This recipe serves 4:

2 medium aubergines (eggplants), sliced into 1 cm thick discs

500 gm low fat natural yogurt

Half tsp chilli powder

1 tsp whole cumin

Half tsp coriander powder

Half tsp black salt (Kala Namak) or plain white salt

Pinch of Mango powder (amchoor)

4 tablespoons sunflower oil

Soak the aubergine in cold water. In a small pan, roast the cumin seeds over a high flame for two minutes.

As soon as you can smell them, take the pan off the flame and grind the cumin to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar or grinder.

Fry the aubergine in batches, adding a little oil at a time. You want the aubergines to be well cooked on either side, soft and dark.

Now layer them so they part overlap each other in two rows in a one-inch deep dish that is just about big enough to hold them.

Spoon over the plain yogurt and sprinkle all the powders evenly on top. Chill for at least 20 minutes before serving.

This could accompany almost anything, but you will find yourself eating it just on its own…

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