Spicy kohlrabi with aubergine and coconut


I remember kohlrabi from my childhood; it went out of fashion until the revolution of farmers’ markets brought it and many other varieties of vegetables out of the ground again.

Despite a longish list of ingredients, this is quite easy – simply make the spice mix and then gently fry the veg before adding the final spices and some water to finish it off. Winter warming and satisfying.

Eat with brown rice or naan.

Serves 4

120ml sunflower or coconut  oil
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 5cm-long and 1cm-thick wedges
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 2cm-thick wedges
3 aubergines, cut into 7cm-long and 3cm-thick wedges
¾ tsp fresh or dried turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black mustard seeds
4 whole sprigs fresh curry leaves (about 30 leaves)
2 large tomatoes, cut into 2cm-thick wedges
80g fresh coconut, finely grated (ie, the flesh from roughly half a small coconut)
2 tbsp lime juice
20g coriander leaves, roughly chopped

For the spice paste
4 large stalks lemongrass, woody ends and outer layer removed and discarded, very finely chopped
6cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 red chilli, roughly chopped 
1 dried red chilli, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small banana shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
90ml sunflower or coconut oil

Put all the spice paste ingredients apart from the oil in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add half the oil and process until you have a paste, stopping the machine and scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Set aside (the remaining three tablespoons of oil will be used to fry the paste later).

Heat a tablespoon and a half of oil in a large-heavy based saucepan or saute pan for which you have a lid, and put on a medium-high heat. Add the kohlrabi and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until it starts to soften and turn a dark golden-brown. Tip into a large bowl.

Pour another tablespoon and a half of oil into the pan, add the onion and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden-brown. Add to the kohlrabi bowl.

Add the last of the oil to the pan and fry the aubergines for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden-brown, but still holding their shape. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and a teaspoon and a half of salt, cook for two minutes, then add the mustard seeds, cook for a minute and add to the kohlrabi bowl.

Wipe clean the pan and put on a medium-low heat. Add the reserved oil from the spice paste and, when hot, add the paste and fry gently for about 25 minutes, stirring often, until it takes on a nice golden colour. Add the curry leaves and tomatoes, cook for five minutes, then add the fried vegetables and 400ml cold water. Cover and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, divide the curry into bowls and scatter with coconut. Put a spoonful of yoghurt on each portion (serve the rest on the side), add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of coriander, and serve at once.

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