In December of 2013 I had the honour of being one of the Top 50 Fundraisers in the KitchenAid Cook For The Cure, a fundraiser for breast cancer.  I signed up late so I only had 2 weeks to raise enough to become one of the Top 50 fundraisers and I’m happy to say I was number 50!  Being one of the Top 50 fundraisers meant I qualified for Celebrity Chef School which was a 30 minute training session with each of the celebrity chefs to learn tricks of the trade.  I got to attend the cocktail party and dinner at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and I got to participate on a team in the Culinary Showdown.  I was on Mark McEwens Team and we won the showdown!

Chef McEwen teaching us how to make ricotta
Chef Crawford teaching us all about butter and butter basting


Chef Hughes teaching us all things fish and oysters

Chef Corbett taught us plating
Chef Vij’s spice tins
Chef Vij cooking up some chicken curry

With Chef Vij at the cocktail party
Cooking in the culinary showdown with Chef McEwen


The winning team!  Team McEwen!

This recipe is inspired by this event that I was fortunate enough to attend.  Indian food is one type of cuisine I have never tried cooking in my own kitchen.  Chef Vikram Vij gave us a lesson on curry and also demonstrated a chicken curry recipe.  He told us how he doesn’t follow recipes when he is making his curries and that if your curry doesn’t taste different every time you make it then you are doing something wrong (love that!).  He also went on to say how curry is like a little democracy on a plate because of all the different flavours that come through but do not overpower each other.  He signed my apron “Namaste” – how could you not love this guy?!
I bought all the spices he mentioned: turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, ground cayenne pepper….and now that I have them all in my spice cupboard the options are endless!  Cooking with Indian spices definitely lends itself well to vegetarian cooking because of the strong flavour you can infuse into your vegetables from your curry blends.  Chef Vij actually told us this on that day – he also said there is no need for meat when you have flavour like this.
I took what I learned from Chef Vij that day and I made a curried eggplant and chickpea masala on basmati rice.  It was a really delicious and hearty vegetarian dish and I will definitely be making it again!

Curried Eggplant with Chickpeas on Basmati Rice
Yields: 4 servings
1 cup of basmati rice
1/2 cup canola oil
1 onion finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 tsp each salt and black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Masala or Massala or Masalo (Hindi: मसाला, Gujarati: મસાલો) is a word used in South East Asia, mainly India, England and Bangladesh. When Indian people talk about cooking and they say Masala, they mean a mixture of many spices.
Make the Rice: In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and a/2 tsp salt and bring to a boil.  Stir the rice once, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until the rice is almost fully tender (about 15 mins) then remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Make the Curried Eggplant: In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat.  Add onions and saute for another 4 minutes.  Add ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne pepper and heat the spices while stirring constantly being careful not to burn the spices.  Add the tomatoes, eggplant, and chickpeas and turn heat to high.  When the curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is very tender.  Cook the masala until the oil separates from the masala  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Stir in chopped cilantro.  Divide curry evenly among 4 bowls.  Serve over basmati rice or with some fresh naan bread.
There are a lot more recipes coming up on the blog that were inspired from this wonderful event so stay tuned!!
With Love,
Daily Tiramisu