Of all the gorgeous vegetables out there, I'm a bit partial to a baby aubergine. It's something about the little piece of squishy goodness that you can lift off the plate with its leafy top, rather grandly called peduncle, and park in your mouth. Oh and they do look pretty on a plate! This Khatta Meetha Baingan, or sweet and sour aubergine, recipe is an explosion of senses with tangy tamarind, pickling spices and a dash of chilli. It's a breeze to cook and even better the next day, when those gorgeous flavours have been given a more of a chance to work their magic. I make the whole affair less fatty by soaking in cold salty water first, and then roasting briefly in a hot oven before cooking. Serve this with roti for an evergreen roti/sabzi affair, or with some barbecued meat on the side.
Preheat the oven to 200 degree C. Leaving the top bit of the aubergine intact, slice each one lengthwise two times like a cross. Then soak the lot in ice cold water with a teaspoon of salt added to it. This prevents aubergines soaking up vast quantities of oil when they cook. Give it a good half an hour if you can.
Take the pump of tamarind and soak it in a cup of hot water. If you’re using tamarind paste, mix it with half a cup of hot water.
Drain and wipe dry the aubergines. Take a teaspoon of oil and drizzle it over the aubergine then bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Drain the tamarind water and mix in the sugar.
When they are cooked, in a shallow pan, bring the remaining oil to heat on high. When it’s hot, add the pinch of asafoetida and the seeds. As the seeds sizzzle up, add the aubergine, the green chilli, pour the tamarind water over it and cook covered for 10 minutes until the aubergines are soft and the juices in the pan are reduced by half. Add salt to taste and enjoy. Khatta Meetha Baingan is equally good hot or cold.