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This 30-Minute Eggplant Curry Is an All-Day Hangover Feast

The head chef at Condesa in Copenhagen shows how you can transform this tasty AF vegetarian curry into a dip sauce and an 'Indian quesadilla.'
Photos by Oliver Jeppe-Hagde

In our cooking series Quickies, we invite chefs, bartenders, and other personalities in the world of food and drink who are serious hustlers to share their tips and tricks for preparing quick, creative after-work meals. Every dish featured in Quickies takes under 30 minutes to make, but without sacrificing any deliciousness—these are tried-and-tested recipes for the super-busy who also happen to have impeccable taste.

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Qasim Khan stabs his knife repeatedly into an eggplant, and punctures the skin so the heat will penetrate its flesh. In about half an hour's time, he will have transformed the eggplant into a bowl of baingan bharta, a vegetarian Indian curry that he swears by today, but which he used to dread.

"I couldn't stand this dish when I was a child," says Qasim. "Children often 'eat with their eyes,' and Indian and Pakistani food just tends to have these monotonous, dark colours. It's a plate of brown, but it tastes incredible. I just love this dish."

Qasim, 30, is head chef at Condesa, a freewheeling Copenhagen restaurant where you'll find al pastor tacos alongside Sichuan-style mackerel, or barbecued romaine lettuce with fermented shrimp butter. It's a liberating, undogmatic kitchen for Qasim, but today it's all about the baingan bharta.

The traditional Indian dish is made with tomatoes, ginger, cayenne pepper, and the eggplants, which Qasim has just given the Patrick Bateman treatment and thrown in the oven.

"I learned this recipe from my father, and he likes it really spicy," says Qasim. "He eats whole green chiles. When I was younger, I prefered my mom's cooking. She is French, but now it's all about the curries for me."

Qasim chucks the eggplants in the oven and starts prepping the other ingredients. He uses the back of a spoon to peel ginger root, finely chops green chiles ("you have to use the green ones, because red chiles don't really work with Indian food"), and slices onions.

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There is no trace of garlic on the chopping board. This is Qasim's personal take on the dish, which you will find myriad versions of across India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

"This reminds me of the Punjabi version in northern Pakistan where my dad grew up. Traditionally, you would also use garam masala, but the recipe varies from family to family. That includes the spice blends. My dad would never consider using pre-made garam masala."

Qasim toasts the cumin seeds at a high heat, before adding the onions to the pan. They have to caramelize until they're dark brown.

"When you cook Italian food, onions have to be soft and a bit sweet, but with Indian cooking, you expose them to really high heat so they get a slightly burnt flavor, which adds depth to the dish."

After frying the onion, he adds chiles and ginger; he wants to keep the vibrant, green freshness. Even though baingan bharta is a traditional dish in Pakistan, where Qasim lived for two years, he hasn't come across it elsewhere in Copenhagen.

"Indian and Pakistani food is just a bit misunderstood around here," he says. "There is a lot of lamb, chicken, and meat drenched in a curry sauce. That's not what I experienced in Pakistan or at home. I'm used to something much vibrant and green. It's almost as if it has become a status thing to eat meat, but it's just not part of our food culture's DNA."

Qasim adds chopped tomatoes to the pan, which he pushes and shakes while he squeezes the juice out of the tomatoes to bring some sweetness to the curry.

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It's time to take the eggplants out of the oven. They sweat and sizzle while Qasim scrapes out the flesh with a spoon and picks off the skin. "You need hardened skin on your fingers to do this," he says. "It's OK if a little bit of the burnt eggplant exterior goes into the dish, because it adds a smoky flavor. The most important thing is that the eggplants don't stay in the oven for too long so they dry out. They have to be juicy."

The eggplant flesh goes into the pan and is mixed with tomatoes and onions, before Qasim seasons it all with salt and pepper.

"This dish should have quite a firm texture. It shouldn't swim around in liquid like other curries. Quite often with Indian food, you let the dish simmer for the last seven to eight minutes without stirring so the oil splits, but I want the oil to be integrated into the dish." Qasim points towards the pan. "You see what I mean, right? It's not the most child-friendly dish."

Well, only if those children are ungrateful brats, because this curry smells and tastes amazing. Qasim pours it into a bowl before adding cubes of butter and yogurt. He serves it with rice and tops with cilantro leaves.

RECIPE: Simple Eggplant Curry

"You could also serve it with chapati, but they take a long time to make from scratch," he says. "So I usually just buy these large flatbreads from the store."

The curry has a complex flavor, which starts out fresh and sweet, before the chili heat gets your tongue buzzing. It's curry magic conjured up in 30 minutes. But this is not the end of the show.

"What's really clever is that you can use your curry leftovers to make a snack for when you are crashed out on the sofa watching telly. Just blend the baignan with [3.5 percent] yogurt, and then you have the perfect dip for your chips. You can also put the blended curry between two chapatis and fry it in butter, and then you have an Indian take on a quesadilla.

"This is actually the perfect Sunday hangover dish, when you are lying on the sofa feeling really sorry for yourself. If you make this in the morning, you have a snack, a curry for dinner and dips for the evening sofa session."

That's three treats in one dish. And no reason at all to feel sorry for yourself.