Aubergine and paneer bhaja

This rich, colourful vegetarian starter has its origins in Bengal, where aubergine fritters are known as bhaja. Topped with spiced grated paneer and a dollop of fresh mint chutney, it's a wonderful way to start an Indian meal.

First published in 2020




Mint chutney


To make the mint chutney, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Season and keep in the fridge until needed
Pour a thin layer of vegetable oil into a wide frying pan and place over a medium heat. Thickly slice the aubergines, then sprinkle with salt. Fry the aubergines on both sides for around 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden
While the aubergines cook, pour a glug of vegetable oil into a separate non-stick pan and place over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, then once they start to crackle add the green pepper, red pepper, red onion and tomato. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft, then add the turmeric, red chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin and a pinch of salt. Cook out for 2 minutes, then add the grated paneer and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves, then set aside and keep warm
To serve, place slices of the cooked aubergine on each plate, then top each with a spoonful of the paneer mixture. Top with a smaller spoonful of mint chutney then serve with a side salad (if desired)

A master of subtle, balanced spicing and with plenty of experience in Michelin-starred restaurants under his belt, Dayashankar Sharma cooks regional Indian dishes with panache at Heritage in Dulwich.

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