Lot Eight Oil’s Nalini Baruch is a big fan of eggplant prepared every which way, and particularly in this addictive kasundi. I love eggplants. Maybe it is because I grew up unable to eat eggplants. While everyone enjoyed baingan chokha (similar to babaganoush), aloo baigan (potato and eggplant curry) and baigan pakora(eggplant pakora), I could only watch from the sidelines. Occasionally, I would sneak a taste only to have my eye lids swell into red puff balls and for huge itchy welts to appear on my body. This would last a day or two. Growing up in an Indian family, there could not be a greater punishment than this. It was only when I arrived in New Zealand in my late teens that I stopped reacting to eggplants. At that point, I knew that this would be my forever-home.
I also grew up with pickling as a seasonal ritual. Mangoes, jackfruit, starfruit and amra (hog plum) were pickled in quantities to last all year around. Curries are almost always served accompanied with one or two pickles. I first came across kasundi in the 1980s when an Indo-Iraqi friend introduced me to her version. Her Indian-born, Portuguese father loved his kasundi. Asian eggplants could not be readily found in New Zealand back then and the melongena tasted bland to our palates, and so we spent many summers perfecting the recipe using an eggplant variety that was unfamiliar to both of us. My masala mix and her pickling style resulted in the recipe I still use today.
I make kasundi without the help of a written recipe and recording this recipe has certainly tested my ability to share it with anyone who has never made an eggplant kasundi. I am truly grateful to Sam Heeney (Love-to-Cook) for allowing me to use her as my uninitiated recipe tester.
I can eat a kasundi with a wide range of dishes, but for anyone unfamiliar with this delicious pickle, serve it with curries or Persian and Mediterranean dishes (either meat-based or vegetarian). Also try it with a dollop of Greek yogurt with mini poppadums as pass-arounds.