This Russian eggplant caviar is a silky smooth vegetable spread with fragrant spices. It is delicious warm or cold!
Serve as a side dish to any meat. Or as a snack on top of crackers or our Sourdough Bread.
It’s tragic that many people don’t appreciate just how amazing eggplants could be. BUT…hear me out!
This eggplant caviar is comfort food. This vegetable spread NEVER disappoints. It’s how we dream vegetables could always taste.
The recipe I am sharing today is a riff on the eggplant caviar my grandmother used to make, or at least how I remember it.
Eggplant caviar or ‘baklazhannaya ikra’ is a very popular summer dish in Russia and a handful of other Eastern European countries but every cook’s recipe is slightly different.
Even my mother’s and my grandmother’s recipes varied. The main reason for so much variety in the method is availability of ingredients and personal taste.
To this day cooking in Eastern Europe is quite seasonal. People use whatever ingredients are available at the time. Home cooks are generally much more flexible about following recipes and definitely don’t get stressed over exact measurements.
Of course, this is both good and bad. It’s good because it encourages creativity. But it’s bad because if you want to get someone’s recipe, you get the usual “put in this, add on that, mix it until it feels right”. Yep, very vague!!
I often hear that Russian food is dubbed as ‘bland’. There is occasionally some truth to it but only when it comes to main dishes, which are rarely served on their own.
What is Russian Eggplant Ikra?
This eggplant caviar (‘ikra’ in Russian) is one of those sides! It’s a flavour maker. The eggplants are cooked with garlic, onions and red peppers over low heat for a long time.
As it cooks the spongy eggplant collapses and turns into a smooth and silky spread. All the delicious flavours added to the eggplants infuse them with flavour.
Traditionally not too many spices are added besides black pepper, dill and parsley. But my grandmother added cracked coriander seeds, which made her eggplant caviar incredibly fragrant, delicious and slightly exotic.
Russian Eggplant Caviar with Cracked Coriander Seeds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large red pepper sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds cracked
- 4 medium eggplants cubed
- 125 ml / ½ cup tomato juice
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 10 g / ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- In a large cast iron pot heat olive oil, then add onions and red pepper and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until translucent but not coloured. Then add garlic and cracked coriander seeds (use mortar and pestle to crack coriander seeds), stir until the mixture is fragrant for approximately 1 minute.
- Add eggplant, tomato juice and ketchup, stir, cover with a lid and cook on low for 1 ½ hours until there is very little liquid left and the eggplant is a spreadable consistency. Check on your eggplant caviar every 20 minutes or so and stir to avoid it burning to the bottom.
- When the mixture has reduced considerably salt it to taste, then add chopped fresh cilantro. (If your eggplant still has a spongy texture at the end of cooking time, cook it for 20-30 minutes longer.)
- Serve with bread or crackers.