Fat Free Vegan Eggplant Chickpea Indian Curry With Fire Roasted Tomatoes

by on February 12, 2012


Fat Free Vegan Eggplant Chickpea Curry Aubergine Oil Free Baingan Bharta

Fat free vegan cooking is really easy, once you know how to skip the oil and prepare delicious home cooked meals that taste just as good if not better without the extra grease and calories.

I love eggplant (aubergine) and eggplant curries, I also love chickpeas in almost everything. The bad thing about Indian food is that it is normally so oily and greasy and this can make it unhealthy and too rich. Eggplant absorbs MORE oil than ANY other vegetable just from sautéing in oil. If you cook it in oil on the stove it absorbs it so well that it becomes 50% fat by calories just like a potato chip. So I suggest to not slather oil on your eggplant or deep fry it, ever… Regardless of how delicious it may be. Your waistline and arteries will thank you.

The best Indian food I’ve ever had, has actually come from my kitchen. Not because I am an awesome Indian cook or anything, but because I use the freshest ingredients, and absolutely no oil, and we feel awesome after eating it, not like taking a nap as you do from take out. Any time we eat Indian food at a restaurant, we almost immediately regret it. Despite pleading with them to use very little oil, it is still very greasy. Indian and Chinese food in general are prepared with so much oil to keep things from sticking to the pan and slide out easily onto the plates. Also because people kind of expect it to be greasy.

There aren’t too many already vegan Indian staple dishes but Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry) and Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry) are two of them, and of course my favourites. I have made them separately before, but I wanted to start practicing my photography for a new cookbook I’m working on, and this means I pretty much have to shoot in portrait style. As I am mostly a landscape photographer, this is difficult for me to get used to and setting up the shot. As you have way more background in it, you need to add things to decorate.

This isn’t my best. I need some more props, but I didn’t have white rice, or dal or anything to put in the background, so it’s a little sparse.

I will continue practicing, and I spent the evening ironing all my pretty coloured napkins so they are ready to go for next time.

This recipe is not an original of mine, it is adapted from Fat Free Vegan. I also doubled the recipe as this was my main I and served it with rice and saved the leftovers. Another good reason to double recipes, is that it doesn’t really take more time to make more of it, and then if you have left overs you can eat it for lunch, or even use this as filling for a delicious wrap on the go! The recipe below is the single version.

Fat Free Vegan Eggplant Chickpea Curry

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant/aubergine, or two small (this needs to be prepared in advance)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
1 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/4 teaspoon ground roasted coriander (or regular)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3 cloves of garlic, minced
14 oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced tomatoes (or regular)
2 tsp of ginger root, finely minced
1-2 tsp sugar or sweetener (to balance acidity, or as desired)
1/2-1 tsp herbamare or salt
1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I don’t like spicy, so I use very little)
15 oz can chickpeas (like Eden Organic) , rinsed and drained (low sodium) or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 -1 cup water, to keep mixture from sticking
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (start with less and add more to taste)
non stick spray

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick the eggplant(s) with a fork all over and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, until the eggplant(s) is/are collapsing and soft in the middle. Remove from the oven when done and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice open the peel, pull the peel off and chop the eggplant flesh into cubes.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet and then spray it lightly with non stick spray (normally I do not do this, but as it’s going to cook for a while, mine started sticking and burning as I have a gas stove). Add the onion and cook until it begins to turn golden about 5-6 minutes.

3. Add the bell pepper and cook for a 3-4 minutes. If anything starts sticking use a tbsp or 2 of water.

4. Clear a spot in the center of the skillet and sprinkle the cumin seeds directly on the hot surface. Stir and toast them gently for about a minute, until they are browning.

5. Stir and then add the coriander, turmeric, garlic, tomatoes, ginger, and cayenne (if desired).

6. Add the eggplant and cook over medium heat, for about 10 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep from sticking.

7. Add the chickpeas and enough water or chickpea cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist, cover tightly, and turn heat to low. Cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until sauce has thickened and flavors have blended. Don’t let it burn. (You can hold this dish on low for up to 45 minutes while you prepare the rest of your meal, but add additional liquid as needed and don’t forget to stir, scraping the bottom.)

8. Add sweetener (if desired), herbamare or salt and garam masala. Always use a lower amount first and then taste test, so you don’t use too much of either. Season as desired.

9. Scoop into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro.

10. Serve with basmati rice or dal.

 Additional Tips: 

Fire roasted tomatoes make every recipe that calls for canned tomatoes, even better. There is a huge difference. My favourite are Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes (now BPA free). If you don’t have time to make your own chickpeas, Eden Organics also come BPA free too. Roasted coriander has a nicer flavour than regular, McCormick (available at many regular grocery stores) makes a great selection of roasted spices. You can make your own roasted spices if you want too. If you have coriander seeds, you can toast them in a pan dry and then grind them in a coffee grinder. Cumin powder can be substituted for cumin seeds if you like, the flavour will be a little different however.

I buy my garam masala from a specialty spice store. If you want to make your own Susan’s V’s recipe is here: 1 tablespoon black cardamom seeds, 1 cinnamon stick (about 2 1/2 inches long), 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon whole cloves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns. Grind in coffee or spice grinder until powdered. Heat a small, dry pan. Add spices and toast just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool. Once cool, store in a sealed jar for future use. Garam masala is always used after cooking is complete to control the spiciness of the dish. Do not add it in while a dish is cooking as you may over spice it and make it too hot.

What do you think of this dish? What’s your favourite use for eggplant or chickpeas?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sherri February 12, 2014 at 5:11 AM

Hi Veronica
I believe you reside in Calgary too.
Would you mind letting me know what spice store you go to for your spices?
I’ve been making my own spice blends now from Community’s bulk section.
Love how the above recipe contains no oil!
Thanks!

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2 Veronica Grace February 16, 2014 at 8:27 PM

I mostly buy McCormick seasoning brand which is available in Canada and the USA in most grocery stores. Nowhere fancy.

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3 Shari October 13, 2012 at 4:40 PM

My best friend (who lives 3 states away) and I are both on Eat to Live. I sent this recipe to him a few weeks ago because he was confused on how to cook eggplant without oil. I had not tried the recipe at that time yet myself. We both made it today. He made it to take to a potluck too assure he would have something he could eat rather than the usual junk at such event. While I haven’t heard from him yet how he or others liked it, I found it simply delicious. This is the perfect combination and balance of flavors. Thank you Veronica for adding this one to my repertoire!

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4 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica October 13, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Oh excellent. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I highly suggest you check out my Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheeze recipe too!>

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5 Rose Vasile February 25, 2012 at 2:04 AM

Veronica I like your curry photo. Lots of colour in the food itself against the white plates is a nice presentation….the spoon makes you feel you can start eating right away :)

Besides using various napkins , tablecloths and sheets in photos, I’ve set plates on the flat part of dresses, shirts or doilies. When I was taking some photos and noticed a few wrinkles, I rippled the material instead of spreading it flat.

Hope to meet you on August 10-12 at Rawk Festival on Salt Spring Island.

Rose Vasile
Courtenay, BC

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6 Carolyn February 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM

I made this recipe the other night for dinner. It was a delicious recipe (thank you!), however I didn’t care for the fire roasted tomato flavor. The smokiness reminded me of a BBQ. Next time I will use regular tomatoes instead. Loved the eggplant in it!! Question: Can you tell us how to select a less seeded eggplant? I know there are male and female, but can’t remember how to tell which is which. And which has a lesser amount of seeds. The male I suspect. Thanks Veronica!!

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7 Veronica February 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Hi Caroyln,

I’m surprised you didn’t like the fire roasted tomatoes more. What brand did you use? Muir Glen are the best and taste much better than regular diced tomatoes. Regular diced tomatoes can be very bitter and acidic.

Just go with smaller eggplants. I used 4 small ones from Costco instead of the large ones. If you cook the eggplant long enough you won’t crunch on the seeds. If you are not liking it and noticing the seeds it’s probably not cooked enough, it should almost melt into the tomatoes.

Female eggplants will have a thin crease on the bottom, while the male will have a belly button like indent in a circle on the bottom. You can try seeing if that makes a difference too. :)

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8 Carolyn February 27, 2012 at 6:53 PM

I did use the Muir Glen diced tomatoes as the recipe suggested. The smoky flavor just didn’t appeal to me, but my husband liked it. So I am the odd one here.

Thanks for the eggplant advice!

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9 Carolyn March 4, 2012 at 6:46 PM

Update: I tried this recipe again using regular diced tomatoes instead of the fire roasted version. We both liked it much better! Delicious.

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10 Veronica March 4, 2012 at 10:25 PM

What brand of roasted tomatoes did you use? I use Muir Glen organics and have never had a problem.

11 Jennie February 15, 2012 at 5:59 PM

hi veronica,

curry used to be one of my favorite, especially thai. curry. but doesn’t curry irritate the stomach? do you or your hubby notice any problems? thanks!!

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12 Veronica February 15, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Some people might be sensitive to hot spices. If that’s the case omit them. Hot spice does not actually injure the digestive tract it does trick the body into believing it though. You do have receptors on your anus, so this is why some people experience pain when eating really spicy food the next day.

You can use turmeric, cumin and coriander though with no problem as they are not part of the pepper family.

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13 Jennie February 22, 2012 at 4:17 PM

“it does trick the body into believing it” can you elaborate more on this?btw, i did buy some curry powder, thai yellow curry mix powder, and coconut (i like coconut curry more than indian), will try it out this week…

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14 Veronica February 23, 2012 at 10:21 PM

“The hot spices work by fooling the body into experiencing pain. This is achieved by the active chemical fitting in to a type of mammalian pain receptor – the nociceptor.”
http://www.thetipsbank.com/chillipeppers.htm

It may just be that you really like coconut milk and creamy things, better than tomato sauce based curries.

Curry actually just means “spices” so anything that is spiced could be called a curry. Thai and Indian dishes are heavily spiced in different ways so they both use the term curry.

Curry powder is an American mix of spices and does not mean every curry is supposed to taste like curry powder. Traditionally no culture uses a set recipe for spice mix, they often make their own and add different amounts of each spice to their preference.

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15 Eileen February 14, 2012 at 4:58 AM

Hi Veronica,

I want to expand the menu and my kids are all under 9 years of age. We can go green smoothies without a worry but I’m not sure if they would take to something like this. Do you think this is a fairly child friendly recipe? :-)

Thanks, Eileen.

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16 Veronica February 14, 2012 at 5:40 AM

Hi Eileen. If your kids like tomato sauce/and/or chickpeas they will probably like it. I would omit all spiciness and the ginger root though just in case. It is a little sweet because I added sweetener to take the bitterness out of the sauce. If you serve them some bread or fill this in a wrap they would probably like it.

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17 Kathy Day February 14, 2012 at 4:50 AM

Hi Veronica,
I too think your photos are enhanced by their simple honest presentation of the food, and your capturing of the lovely colors.
I make a ratatouille with eggplant and tomatoes, zucchini, frozen okra, onions, zucchini, mushrooms. I learned recently that by cutting the eggplant into cubes (peel on) and boiling in water for two minutes, the bitterness will be gone. Much quicker and more cost efficient than oven baking. I use fresh and/or diced canned tomatoes. For seasoning, I use dried Italian oregano from my garden, and ground black pepper. Yesterday when making this dish, I added fresh minced basil after the dish was cooked. Unfortunately there were no eggplants to be had, or okra, but the dish was still delicious (baked in the oven slowly for up to one hour at 375F, stirring every 20 minutes). Ratatouille is even more delicious the next day. Great with rice.

I very seldom use any oil at all when cooking vegetables as have a set of Thomasville frypans (made by Rosenthal) with an excellent truly non stick finish.

Kathy

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18 Veronica February 14, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Thanks Kathy. I made a ratatouille recipe for my upcoming recipe ebook as well, I just don’t use okra. I want to like it, but the texture just gets to me!

I’ve done that before, boiling the eggplant. It works too. I serve ratatouille with rice too and we always want some for the next day but usually Fred eats it all lol.

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19 Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Hi Veronica, I have a question. I was wondering about the canned muir glenn tomatoes, I have read that canned food is essentially toxic (BPA, etc.) and that canned tomatoes are worse because the acid in them leeches out more of the heavy metals (aluminum, toxins). Have you heard this? What would you suggest? Also, would do you and Frederic ever eat brown rice or quinoa with this type of dish or is it really better with a white basmati rice. Thanks so much! I love your recipes and website! :)

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20 Veronica February 13, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Good question Jennifer!!
I want to let everyone know that the organic food companies have heard us and are starting to use BPA free liners.

Muir Glen Organics started doing this with last seasons tomatoes in 2011 and onward. You can read here about it.

Also for those of you not wanting to make your own chickpeas, Eden Organics has also switched to BPA free liners and even says so on the cans now. So it’s easy to tell.

In general if you see white plastic on the inside of a can it probably contains BPA. Muir Glen has switched to a metallic shiny lining and when I bought several kinds of tomatoes from them some of them were BPA free and some not, depending on how old they are. So things are getting better and you can get BPA free canned foods if you want to use them.

Also, we ate this with red rice, as Fred had already made some. It is like brown rice, only red, and not Indian, so I didn’t include it in the picture. You can make whatever side you like, we often eat quinoa instead of rice as well and enjoy it.

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21 Christy February 13, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Wow, this sounds really good (and I confess, I am not a big fan of Indian food). I’ll definitely have to try it. Also, I’m not a photo expert or anything, but I really like the picture you included of the dish, it looks simple and tasty, so good job for not having anything to put in the background!

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22 Veronica February 13, 2012 at 9:01 PM

Thank you Christy!

I used to be afraid of Indian food because I really don’t like spiciness. But when I make it at home it’s in my top favourites. It’s really hard for me to say whether Thai, Indian or Italian are my favourite. Anything can be your favourite when you use quality ingredients and season to your tastes.

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23 Kathleen February 13, 2012 at 5:41 PM

I think the photo is beautiful, not too busy, and highlights the dish well. No need for too much in the photo.

When I see the recipe, I was thinking, “Some fresh coconut milk in there would make it fantastic,” but of course, I love coconut in my curries.

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24 Veronica February 13, 2012 at 8:57 PM

Coconut milk works for Thai curries and creamy Indian curries. There are a few tomato based curries in Indian cuisine that do not contain any milks and this is one of them. Baingan Bharta (eggplant), Chana Masala (chickpeas), Mushroom Masala etc are based on tomatoes and don’t need coconut milk. Vegetable Korma is a a creamy dish with cashews and milk, you can of course make it vegan with coconut milk instead and it is a much milder curry. I don’t know how that would taste adding coconut milk to this dish, as I never add creaminess to tomato sauces. If you try it, let me know.

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