How did curry, with its roots in Asia, made its way into so many of our grandmothers' recipes, and why was the exotic spice in recipes found in community cookbooks all over the South. Even in our family, we have had curried cauliflower soup at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. But why?
Then one day, we heard the story behind a Carolina dish called Country Captain, which had its heyday in the 1950's country club scene. Legend has it that a British sea captain who was working in the spice trade introduced the dish and the spices required to make it to Southern port cities like Charleston and Savannah. From there, adventuresome Southerners made it their own. We feel very connected to this dish and the story behind it because the idea of seeing world cuisine through a Southern American lens just about sums up what we do here at The Chubby Vegetarian.
Our County Captain is made with thick, hearty slices of eggplant rather than chicken. The spongy eggplant soaks up all the wonderful spices. This is the perfect thing to make for a crowd as it'll easily feed six people, and because it's a casserole, it requires very little hands-on time.
Vegetarian Country Captain
1 medium onion (peeled, roughly chopped)
1 medium tomato (roughly chopped)
3-inch piece fresh ginger (peeled, roughly chopped)
10 cloves garlic
1 medium jalapeño (stem removed)
1 apple (cut away from the core)
1 cup loose packed cilantro (more for garnish)
zest of 1 organic lime (plus wedges to garnish the dish)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (use Earth Balance to make this vegan)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons hot curry powder
1 teaspoon iodized sea salt
1 teaspoon cane sugar
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sambal (optional)
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups prepared garbanzo beans (or 1 can, drained)
1 1/2 cups diced green pepper (about 1 large)
2 medium Italian eggplants (sliced longways 1/2 inch thick)
Maldon sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)
3 cups prepared jasmine rice
1 cup toasted sliced almonds (to garnish)
Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, apple, cilantro and lime zest. Blend for 3 minutes or until smooth. Set mixture aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder. Stir to incorporate spices into the butter. Allow them to cook for about a minute or until they become very fragrant. Add the mixture from the food processor and stir. Stirring occasionally, allow this mixture to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated -- it'll be very thick and paste-like. This takes 10 minutes.
Add the salt, sugar, coconut milk, broth, sambal (if you like it spicy), cinnamon, raisins, potatoes, beans, and papers to the pot. Stir, put the lid in place, and reduce the heat to low. Allow mixture to simmer for 5 minutes while you prepare the eggplant.
Trim the stem end of the eggplant and slice into generous 1/2-inch slices. You should end up with 6 good-looking slices and the trimmings from the end. Sprinkle both sides of the pieces with salt and pepper to taste. In a 12 x 9 inch casserole dish, lay the eggplant slices down in a shingle-like pattern. Using a large ladle, spoon the warm mixture from the Dutch oven over the top of the eggplant slices. Cover with foil and place dish in the oven for 1 hour.
Using a spatula place 1 large slice of eggplant in the center of a dinner plate. Spoon some of the mixture from the casserole over the top of it. Garnish the dish with 1/4 cup jasmine rice, almonds, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges. Add salt and pepper to taste.