Seasoned Aubergine Rice

This flavoursome aubergine-laced rice dish from the state of Gujurat in Western India is an ideal main dish rice for any lunch or dinner menu.

YIELD: enough for 4 to 6 persons

3 tablespoons (60 ml) sesame seeds
2 1/2 cups (625 ml) water
4 tablespoons (80 ml) oil or ghee
4 tablespoons (80 ml) peanuts
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cumin seeds
4 green chilies, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon (20 ml) grated fresh ginger
1 small eggplant, about 250 hrs, cut into 1,25 cm cubes
2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt
1 tablespoon (20 ml) sugar
1 1/4 cups (310 ml) basmati rice or other long grain white rice
1 tablespoon (20 ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) coarsely-ground black pepper

Pour the sesame seeds into a 2 litre saucepan over low heat. Dry roast swirling the pan and stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Transfer the roasted sesame to a spice mill and grind it to a powder. Remove the powder and set it aside.
Place the water in a small saucepan and bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, return the 2 litre saucepan to moderate heat and add the oil. When fairly hot, drop in the peanuts. Stirring, fry the nuts until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Sprinkle the cumin seeds into the hot oil that remains in the saucepan, still over moderate heat. When the seeds darken a few shades, add the chilies and ginger. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the aubergine and salt, and sauté, stirring for 2-3 minutes, or until the aubergines

have absorbed all the flavoured oil and are semi-translucent. Pour in the rice and stir with the aubergines and spices until the rice goes a little whitish in colour.
Add the boiling water, sugar, lemon juice and black pepper. Raise the heat to high and quickly bring to a full boil. Immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover without stirring, for 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit, covered for 5 minutes, to allow the rice grains to firm up.
Chop the peanuts coarsely and combine them with the ground sesame seeds. Just before serving, evenly fold the sesame-nut mixture into the piping hot rice.


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