This recipe is sooooooooo good that when I discovered it, I made it 6 times in two weeks and heard nobody complaining. I know you now think I’m nuts, but I dare you to try it. I’m part of a Facebook group who is filled with fabulous home cooks who conjure up the most spectacular dishes. When this dish was posted there it featured for many weeks and everyone wanted to make it. Every time someone posted this dish again there where even more people wanting to make it because of all the raving reviews everyone wrote after making this.
What makes it so special? The red lentil and coconut sauce is creamy and spicy at the same time and the aubergine make this dish substantial enough to make it a complete meal. It’s both filling and healthy, meaning that you can feel indulgent with none of the guilt. The paneer stuffed aubergine surely elevates this curry to something completely irresistible.
Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, it can be a healthy choice to go meatless every now and then. This vegetarian recipe makes a perfect meatless Monday dinner dish. I’m not vegan, but I’ve been told that you can even make it vegan by subbing the paneer for marinated tofu or avocado (thank you Deborah for the suggestion). Did you know that aubergine is known for its dietary fibres, vitamins B1, B3 and B6, copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K?
It takes some time to make the stuffed aubergine but you will not regret it as it is packed full of delicious Indian flavors. Make a double portion and you’ll have giant smiles at the dinner table the next day. If you don’t want to eat the same two days in a row you can always freeze some so you have it quick and easily available for a rainy day. That’s my strategy nowadays anyway…………….
The aubergine slices in this dish are stuffed with paneer which is a cheese that is made with just two ingredients: cow milk and lemon juice. If you can’t find it in stores near you, you can always make it yourself. It’s as easy as pie. I will try to upload the recipe for paneer asap so you will see it’s really not that difficult to make. If you want you can spice up your paneer with salt and spices. I sometimes use za’atar or cumin or just use it plain, but I always add salt to my paneer.
What’s also fabulous about this dish is that it’s perfect for feeding a large crowd of friends and/or family. You can assemble the dish in advance, refrigerate and just bake off at the last minute. This is perfect if you’re entertaining and you don’t want to be in the kitchen while your guests arrive.
Serve these stuffed aubergines alongside a nice green salad, with a wedge of lemon for squeezing, and you’re all sorted. If you don’t think it’s enough or you want to make it extra special you can always whip up some of my naan. Check the recipe here.
I think the original recipe does not make for enough sauce, so I always use more lentils and add some water and seasoning in my version. I also cut up all the aubergine parts that I don’t use for stuffing and add them to the sauce because I hate to waste food. The fresh curry leaves are an essential part of this dish, but I know how difficult they can be to source. I’ve made the dish with and without the fresh curry leaves and though I like it better with it’s also very nice without. I always leave out the curry leaves that are fried at the end and spooned over the dish because I don’t think they add anything to the taste. I don’t bother with dried curry leaves. The ones I can buy here don’t have any taste or smell whatsoever.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!
- 3 large aubergines cut lengthways into 0.5cm-thick slices
- 100 ml groundnut oil
- Salt and black pepper
- 6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
- 40 fresh curry leaves (frozen from fresh is fine too)
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp medium curry powder
- 3 tsp tomato paste
- strips lime peel from 1 lime, plus the juice of 1 lime
- 200 g red lentils
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 100 g large spinach leaves
- 220 g paneer, broken into 2cm chunks
- 10 g coriander for cooking
- 5 g coriander, roughly chopped, to serve
Heat the oven to 220C. Lay out the aubergine slices on two large oven trays lined with baking paper. Brush with two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn over the aubergine slices and repeat, then roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Leave to cool.
Put two tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for eight minutes, until golden brown. Add the leftover aubergine, the ginger, the chilli and half the curry leaves, cook for two minutes, then add the spices, tomato paste, strips of lime peel and lentils.
Stir for a minute, then add the coconut milk, 800ml water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour into a large enough baking dish to accommodate the stuffed aubergine later and set aside.
Take a aubergine slice and put a few spinach leafs (or just one if there are really big) on top. Put a piece of paneer in the middle, then roll up the aubergine, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the paneer is encased.
Put the aubergine rolls seam-side down in the lentil sauce, and repeat with the remaining aubergine, spinach and paneer. You should end up with about 16-20 rolls, all sat snugly in the sauce. Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged.
Bake the aubergine for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Drizzle the aubergine rolls with the lime juice and serve with coriander sprinkled on top.