I had a Tamil Indian friend in Adelaide who would regularly arrive at my place, bearing this curry and a bunch of roses, asking only that I cook some rice and maybe (under his guidance) some payasam. This curry is so easy and so good, or maybe it is the memory of the smell of the roses that biases my tastebuds.
Sauce-free Indian curries like these are really just slightly-more-elaborate vegetable sautés—toast spices in ghee, coconut oil or Indian sesame oil, add in your vegetables, and finish with salt and sometimes a touch of sugar to season the simple, healthful spicy glaze that coats the vegetables.
For Spinach dishes, try Spinach Thoran, Mung Dal with Cumin and Spinach, and Stir Fried Spinach with Coconut. Or for Eggplant dishes, try Eggplant in Tamarind Leaf Paste, Baingan ka Salan, Brinjal Chidambaram Kosthu, Spicy Eggplant Rice, and Grated Coconut Masala Kuzhambu.
If you would like to make your own Sambar Powder visit this recent post which will explain the process.
Sweet Potato, Eggplant and Spinach Madras Subzi
I often make half quantities as the full recipe makes quite an amount.
1 large sweet potato, about 650 – 700 g, peeled and cut into 2 – 2.5cm cubes
1 large eggplant, about 450 g, cut into 2 – 2.5cm cubes
500 g of spinach, blanched, dried and chopped
1 Tblspn cumin seeds
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tblspn Madras Sambar Powder (buy or make your own) or a good curry powder (adjust am0unt to heat of the curry powder)
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1 tspn sea salt
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
50 ml ghee
2 Tblspn chopped green coriander leaves
Heat ghee in a heavy-based saucepan on low heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, and stir fry until garlic turns a golden brown colour.
Add the sweet potato pieces and cook for 5 minutes until the sweet potato is half cooked. Stir occasionally and add a splash of water if needed.
Mix in the eggplant cubes, spinach, sea salt, sambar powder and turmeric powder. Cook on low-medium heat until the sweet potato and eggplant is tender. Add a splash of water if needed.
Remove dish from stove and stir in the coriander leaves.
Allow the dish to sit for 15 minutes to develop the flavours, and serve with rice and/or naan.
I have made this without the sambar powder, and the gentleness of the resulting curry is wonderful.