Shrimp and Eggplant Curry

Curry has made me uncomfortable dating back to the time I walked into a health food store that was run by one of those New Age types whose moral superiority in the realm of nutrition–which she considered an extension of her deep-seated beliefs in The Great Mother and Her Bosom of Beneficence–was further exaggerated by just being an asshole herself. When I asked her where she kept the curry, she literally sniffed, tilted her nose towards the tie-dyed bedsheets covering the ceiling and said, “I’m sure you mean to make your own. If you’ll give me your recipe, I’ll show you where you can find the ingredients.”

So I fumbled in my pockets and mumbled something about leaving the recipe my friend Rupta had given me at home before beating a retreat and hitting the books only to discover that curry is indeed not a singular spice or seasoning, but a combination of any given number of ingredients with endless variations. Still, that experience cooled my already tenuous relationship with curries, and though I have read Madhur Jaffre’s pontifications on the subject, I’ve never reached the degree of sophistication some of my peers have by actually making my own blend. Granted, curry isn’t a spice mixture I use very often, either, but I really do love a pungent curried roast chicken, particularly cold with sour cream. Like most people, I find curry most useful for vegetables, particularly cauliflower and eggplant.

Peel and halve (or cut into thick slices, depending on the size) six small or two large eggplants, brush liberally with oil (I don’t recommend olive oil for this recipe, nor ghee or what passes for it in your world; if you’re picky about it–and God help you if you are–use peanut oil), dust with pepper and place in a very hot oven until browned and soft. (For this recipe you’ll need about three cups of cooked eggplant.) Peel about two pounds 26-30 count shrimp, one white onion and 2 small mild peppers. Heat oil in a heavy skillet, crush two cloves of garlic, add to oil with onions, peppers, and shrimp, sauté until shrimp are cooked, then add eggplant. Stir to mix thoroughly; you’ll have to add some liquid, about two cups. You can use water, but I use a weak stock (usually chicken). Season with two tablespoons curry powder infused with a teaspoon each thyme leaves and basil. Add cayenne to taste. Mix thoroughly and pour into an oven dish or deep–sided pan and bake in a medium (350) oven until firm. Seasoned rice is a great side.

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