I have been cooking international dishes for over 20 years now, but I have always shied away from cooking Indian. The spices are complex and unfamiliar to me. When I lived in the Silicon Valley, I was surrounded by awesome Indian and Pakistani restaurants. Spice Hut, an Indian fast food restaurant was less than a block away from where I lived in Sunnyvale. I had no reason to even try making Indian dishes at home.
Sadly, Indian restaurants in my neighborhood are not so impressive compare to what I had before. Besides, I can't just walk a few doors down the street to get it. Luckily, I work with someone from India in the office, and she is more than happy to give me some instructions on cooking Indian and explain some of those complex spices. I told her that I love eggplants and often order Indian eggplant dishes at the restaurants. She typed up a recipe just for me so I can go shop for some Indian spices. I can find just about anything I need to cook Indian at Vik's Market in Berkeley.
So I picked up a bag of Panch Puran (also called Panch Phoran, Panch Phoron, or Bengali Five-Spice Mix) which is a spice mixture used in Indian cuisine. It is made of equal parts of five spices:
* fenugreek seed (methi)
* nigella seed (kalo jira)
* mustard seed (rai or shorshe)
* fennel seed (mouri)
* cumin seed (jeera)
Whenever I feel like a quick dish that tastes like Indian food, I cook it with Panch Puran, turmeric, and cayanne pepper. For the eggplant dish, I heat up some vegetable oil and put 2 teaspoons of Panch Puran and a teaspoon of turmeric, let the spices cook in the hot oil for a minute then put bite size eggplant pieces in there. Coat the eggplants pieces with the spices then add a little water, cover it and let it cook through.
You can add some onion or substitute eggplant with potatoes. I am sure you can also cook cauliflowers and other vegetables in the same way.