The latest experiment in sous vide cooking was to prepare a simple Indian dish. I chose aubergine and chicken curry, not least because our local Indian grocery shop had some most beautiful aubergines. But also because both the main ingredients have their challenges. It’s quite easy for aubergine to become an unidentifiable slop when it’s cooked in a sauce, and similarly difficult to prevent the chicken drying out.
Did I succeed? Well, yes and no. The aubergine pieces retained their integrity and their taste. The chicken was perfectly cooked. The sauce was fresh and zingy with spices. And the dish looked nice – it wasn’t just a bowl of brown gloop:
But although the sauce tasted great, the spices hadn’t sufficiently permeated either the aubergine or the chicken. I was reminded of the old-fashioned curry houses of my youth where they would have three or four pans of sauce on the go in the kitchen, and simply add whatever plainly-cooked meat or vegetables that were called for by each individual order.
Maybe a marinating step would improve things, but the prep is already a four-hour long process!
For reference, this is what I did:
The aubergines were blackened slightly over a gas ring, then chopped into nice pieces and drizzled with olive oil.
They were sealed in a single layer into sous vide bags. No salt, no spices, just oil.
I cooked these for an hour at 85C, at which point they were still a little undercooked, but acceptably so. Some guidance suggests 90C for vegetables, but I was a bit nervous of cooking such a soft vegetable as aubergine at too high a temperature.
Meanwhile I made up the spice mixture and the sauce. In normal circumstances I would expect to build up the flavours in stages, starting with certain spices, and adding more as the main ingredients of the dish were assembled. This was a much simpler affair. I lightly fried ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, and turmeric with garlic paste and fresh ginger in a little oil, then added chopped onion, and whole spices in the form of dried red chillies, green cardamoms, and a piece of cinnamon. I added plenty of butter, then softened the onion and combined the spices over a low heat.
Final assembly consisted of adding the cooked aubergines (including their juices), trimmed and chopped chicken thighs (raw), salt, black pepper, chopped coriander leaves, and coconut milk.
I wasn’t sure whether to cook the chicken and aubergine in plenty of sauce, or to strain off some of the liquid and reduce it separately. In the event, I cooked it complete with all of its sauce in one sous vide bag at 75C for about 2½ hours.
Before actually serving, we gave it 3 minutes in the microwave simply to bring it up to serving temperature. 75C is a wee bit lukewarm for our taste!
Would I do it again? I’ll probably have another go at a sous vide casserole-type dish, but perhaps from the English or French tradition rather than Indian.