“I never heard of it in my entire life. What on earth is Chilli Jam?” my Maharashtrian cook asked surprisingly, as I passed her a very small amount of my creation. She touched the jam to her tongue with a frown. And that was the end of her frown, actually. Her facial expressions changed in a second. “Oh didi, what is this stuff?” she exclaimed. I smiled. I knew that she loved my Hot & Sweet Chilli Jam. She saw some aubergines and Gongura leaves lying on my kitchen counter and she knew that I would be upto another kitchen experiment today. It seemed from her smile that she somehow guessed what I would tell her next. Well, I told her to leave for the day, as I made up my mind to cook the whole meal for my family, on this beautiful Sunday. Chilli Jam Aubergines was one of the dishes that I cooked today.
Called Ambade ka bhaji in Mumbai, you will find these Red Sorrel or Gongura leaves easily in any leafy green vegetable cart stalls in Maharashtra. These are very interesting. These Gongura leaves add a characteristic taste to your dish. Although these leaves are not the hero of my dish today, these do play a big role, as the distinct sourness in this aubergine recipe comes from these. And this sourness is unique. I don’t think you will get the same flavour and slightly slippery texture in this dish if you replace the leaves with lemon, lime, vinegar or whatever.
By the way, brinjals, aubergines and eggplants are all same. These are different names for the same vegetable. While choosing aubergines, ensure that these are worm-free. Also, discard aubergines with prominent seeds. Only young aubergines with less/small seeds work well for any aubergine recipe.
I have used a special homemade chilli jam to flavour my stir-fried aubergines. It is made using two kinds of chillies: the Gujarati Bhavnagari chillies and the regular green chillies (spicier variety). This Hot & Sweet Chilli Jam is absolutely kickass. Please use this flavourful jam only to flavour your curries, stir-fries or to add a different level of flavour to your regular wheat-flour (atta) dough. Eating this jam on its own would prove to be quite spicy, although it is made in sugar syrup.
I am so proud of my version of chilli jam. It is so tasty that these days, I have an urge to add this chilli jam to whatever I cook. It adds much more flavour to those dishes which demand chilli powder or green chillies. Surprisingly, this chilli jam becomes much milder (by almost 50%) when you cook with it!
Hot & Sweet Chilli Jam
Bhavnagari Chillies (chopped roughly): 8
Green chillies (long ones; chopped finely): 4
Medium-sized onion (chopped): ½
Ginger paste: ¼ tsp
Whole star anise: 2
Sugar: 4.5 tbsp
Salt: ½ tsp
Red wine vinegar: 2 tsp
Oil: 1 tbsp
Water: ½ cup
In a pan, add sugar and water and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped chillies and boil for 15 min, covered, on a low flame.
Meanwhile, in another pan, add the oil and let it smoke. Add the onions and salt and sauté continuously on a medium flame for about 5 min. Mix in the ginger paste, red wine vinegar and the star anise. Cook for 2 min. Now add the boiled chillies along with the sugar syrup, to this pan.
Sauté the contents and cook covered for another 5 min. Switch off the gas after that.
Discard the star anises and let the chilli jam cool down at room temperature. Blitz till a smooth texture is obtained. You can add a little boiled water (just little) to make the blitzing process easier. This Chilli Jam can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for about two weeks.
Chilli Jam Aubergines
- Small plump and spotted aubergines (cut lengthwise into four pieces, stems removed): 5
- Fennel seeds: ¼ tsp
- Ginger paste: ¼ tsp
- My homemade Hot & Sweet Chilli Jam see the above recipe: 2.5 tsp
- Sorrel leaves finely chopped: 1 handful
- Garlic pods finely chopped: 6
- Turmeric powder: 2 pinches
- Salt: ½ tsp
- Sprinkling of water: throughout the cooking process
- Oil: 4 tbsp
- Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the fennel seeds. After a few seconds, add the aubergines and sauté the aubergines with salt and turmeric powder, till these are almost cooked. Ensure that the aubergines don’t lose their shape.
- Add the sorrel leaves and the garlic pods. Cook covered (sprinkling some water) for 10 min, stirring occasionally.
- After 10 min, add the ginger paste and the chilli jam.
- Sprinkle some water again and mix the contents in the kadhai well. Water is sprinkled at this stage so that the chilli jam gets uniformly smeared with all the aubergines.
- Sauté carefully, until the sprinkled water evaporates.
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