Sweet Aubergine Pickle

Sweet Aubergine Pickle
Sweet Aubergine Pickle

I’ve just finished my precious jar of brinjal pickle from London. Trouble is it was so packed full of sugar I only dared enjoy it very occasionally with a morsel of cheese. Now that I have to make my own I’m back in control. And to celebrate I turned to my equally precious stash of pappadams with absolute lashings of pickle!

Jump to Recipe

There is no end of varieties of aubergine pickle recipes. Some use sugar, others not. Many Indian recipes use tamarind for sharpness, vinegar being alien to their cuisine bar in Goa, where the Portuguese introduced it in dishes. Curry leaves feature quite a bit, as does mustard. Onions always. Spices vary hugely.

Based on availability of ingredients I’m going for the sweet, sticky variety using wet tamarind and vinegar with a sweetener. And here I have to tell you that sugar is an essential part of the pickle’s sticky, syrupy texture. There’s no getting round a big, generous spoonful (or four) of sugar: I used honey. The rest I made up for, quite happily, with ground stevia leaf. The amount of stevia I put in verged on scary. And it still wasn’t as sweet as the shop bought version. Good.

For spice I wanted sweet warming spices like cinnamon, clove, black cardamom and black pepper. Garam masala (literally “warming spices”) fits the bill. This unctuous mix is most often added towards the end of cooking as a garnish of fresh perfume. Here it penetrates deep into the dish, rounding off the primary flavours. The sharp sweetness is further balanced with fenugreek for a hint of bitterness, salt adding the final flourish.

Sweet Aubergine Pickle

Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine British, Indian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 good glug of oil
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece ginger root
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1-2 generous tbsp raw brown sugar, honey, agave nectar or maple syrup double it if you're not using stevia
  • non-sugar sweetener such as stevia or xylitol to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • salt to taste

Whole spices

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)

Ground spices

  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder

Instructions

  • Season the oil: heat some oil in a roomy pan and add in the whole spices, letting them pop and splutter for a few seconds. Finish with a pinch of hing
  • immediately add the finely sliced onion and sauté till soft, translucent and golden (about 10-15 minutes)
  • in a mortar and pestle make a paste with the green chilli, garlic and ginger and add to the softened onions and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • add the thinly cut aubergine, stirring well to coat with the spiced oil
  • sauté at medium heat for 5-10 minutes to partially brown the aubergine – add a little more oil if necessary to avoid sticking
  • now add the vinegar, tamarind, sugar / honey, stevia if you're using it, ground spices and some salt. Add water to cover, bring to the boil, then put on a lid and cook on medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until the aubergine is completely soft and the mixture gloopy and sticky
  • check for sticking or burning and add more water as needed
  • cool and store in a jar for up to 3 weeks in the fridge

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