Joaquin, the category 4 hurricane mercifully spared the inner city areas of NC while it unleashed a torrential outpour in outer lying areas and SC and submerged quite a few as well . We, in the heart of the city were subjected to cold and drafty weather and incessant rain. The entire week was under its onslaught and to add to its mix a housebound active Labrador , what do you get? You might just have some America’s Funniest Videos happening right here ( unintentional of course !)…
Maybe I should send in a couple so I can finally hit the jack pot . M alternated between hyper playing in the basement and moping at the front door. Add to drinking copious amounts of water, it was quite funny to watch this one who would not hesitate to roll in pack of slimy mud ( mud bath anyone? Au natural therapy for shiny skin) to recoil on wet grass. Wet grass really ? Go figure!!
So with soccer games and classes cancelled ( Really the fields were marshes. I could imagine a LOTR scenario. Frodo….step back !) and a conscious cancelling ( is that even a term ?) of Sunday classes for the rest, it was a day or rather morning of respite. M got to have her bath – A2 and A3 gave her one and joined in the soapy shower and I could hear them laughing away like loonies. Yours truly got a bit sappy and sort of Brady Brunch kind and made this for a Sunday afternoon lunch !
Tender Baby eggplants are stuffed with a special blend of spices, lentils and one secret ingredient ( ha ha ha). Trimmed and cut to be filled ( or rather stuffed) with this special dry mix powder/ stuffing , they are then gently slid on to a wide skillet with seasoning and covered and cooked with minimal oil. Yep! You heard me right , reduced quantity of oil and yet these baby beauties pack a punch when had – with a bowl of steaming hot rice and accompanying sambar or with hot phulkas and tadka moong dal.
Prep time : 20 min Cooking time 15-25 min Serves : 3-4
- 12 baby purple eggplants
- 1.5 Tbsp. of oil
- 1/4 tsp. of mustard seeds
- A generous pinch of Asafoetida
- 4-5 fresh green curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp of split, washed, de husked Urad dal
Stuffing: to be roasted and ground to yield coarse mix
- Oil : 1 tsp.
- Channa Dal : 1/4 cup
- Coriander seeds / Dhania : 1/4 cup
- Sesame seeds/ Til : 2 Tbsp.
- Split urad dal : 2 Tbsp.
- Dry red chilies : 8 ( adjust to spice level)
- Bydagi or Kashmiri chili : 2 ( optional, yield rich red color without heat)
- Dry tamarind : 1 inch piece
- Peanuts w or w/o skin: 2 tsp.
- 1 tsp. of salt. – to be added to the final mix
Preparing the Stuffing mix:
- In a wide bottomed , thick non stick or cast iron skillet heat a tsp of oil and roast/fry the dry red chilies initially. Drain and set aside. In the seasoned skillet with remnants of oil add in the peanuts and tamarind piece, roast well and set aside.
- Now sequentially roast the ingredients listed. You do not want these to be roasted all together as the sesame seeds are quick to burn by the time the lentils/dal are done. Trust me it takes only a few minutes , so do it sequentially. Worth it .
- Set it aside to cool well. Once cooled very well, grind to a granulated state aka coarse powder. Add a tsp. of salt and mix well.
- Use as much as required for the stuffing and a tbsp. or so to sprinkle some on the top. Reserve the rest of it, if any, as seasoning or topping for other vegetables. Makes an awesome one for potatoes as well. And for tondli too.
Trimming, slicing and stuffing the eggplant:
- I personally do not like to retain the tails of the eggplants, hence I trim them out . And quarter them so they open like a flower ( take care not to slice them completely ).
- In a wide saucepan fill it with water and dunk these eggplants in them. Why? Well if you do not you will black oxidized ones on your hands. Very unappealing:-(
- Once the prep for all these eggplants are done, drain them out one by one and fill them with dry stuffing mix you have prepared.
- They should be gently pried apart and stuffed with dry mix. Because they were dunked in water, the moisture will help the dry stuffing mix to adhere to the eggplants.
Cooking the stuffed aubergines:
- In a wide bottomed skillet ( use the one you previously used for roasting the stuffing), add the 1.5 Tbsp of oil.
- On heating add the generous pinch of Asafoetida , curry leaves, mustard seeds and urad dal. Let them crackle and the lentils brown.
- Now gently slide and arrange each stuffed eggplant in a single layer. Reduce the flame to medium high and sprinkle some water – about a couple of tablespoons worth at the most and cover. Let it cook / steam/braise for about 7-10 minutes or so. If they are really tender eggplants they would be cooked near through now.
- Remove the lid and with aid of tongs, gently flip it so now it roasts on the other side. If the eggplants are completely cooked, you can leave it uncovered at this stage. If not cover it and let it cook again for another 5 minutes.
- Finish the cooking process with uncovered cooking for about 5 -7 minutes to aid in removing any sogginess left and to crisp up the eggplants a bit.
- Note: add a dash of salt if you think you might need a bit more.
Serve hot with steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee and fresh Sambar. Ambrosia !