I grew up not liking this veggie here much - this was my sister's favorite - maybe that's why I decided that I should not like it. And so I picked Vendakkai (Bhindi) to be my favorite. Somehow they were opposites. And as sisters you just have to like the opposite things. Vendakkai - Kathirikka. Like Prabhu and Karthik in Agni Natchatiram - you can only like one person. But, now I'm just sad that I wasted many years not knowing this veggie well..not having interacted with it in a very personal manner, not having had the pleasure of licking the very last of the stuffing that sticks to your plate sometimes. So, all you little ones that say you don't like this veggie - give it a try this way. You won't regret like me later in your lives! Really....its ok to like both Prabhu and Karthik in Agni Natchatiram. For all of you who are not familiar with Agni Natchatiram, here's the wiki version. This
Every time we make this at home, this gets eaten as is while getting cooked...none of us can wait until its served on the plate! We taste test it every min..hot from the pan.
Here's the low down on the stuffing -
Lots of Dhania - I add about 1/3 cup actually. Love the flavor.
Channa Daal - 1 tbsp
Urad Daal - 1/2 tbsp
Jeera - about 1 tsp
Black pepper - about 5-6 whole peppers
Red Chillies - 4-5 or more if you like it spicier
White Sesame Seeds - about 1 heaped tbsp
Salt to taste. Remember to add a little extra because this salt also needs to work for the eggplants as well.
Dry roast each of these ingredients separately. Once they are roasted golden, move quickly to a bowl. Once all the ingredients are roasted, we can move on to the next step - grinding them.
Move all of the roasted ingredients to a mixie or blender. Add about 1/2 cup of grated coconut on top. Fresh or frozen is fine.
Then, add about 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts too on top. I roasted with the skin on and left the skin on too - you're not going to taste it anyway, why waste 10 mins trying to deskin them? Use that time to go catch up with friends on Facebook!
Grind everything together to a nice coarse powder. Now get ready for the fun part.
Stuffing the baby eggplants!!
A little background here. Just like almost all of us, I never cared how my mom cooked our food when we were growing up. But I should have noticed this before and should have remembered it for life. Instead, when I started cooking years back, I googled and found recipes for stuffed eggplants and would cut my veggie into 4 pieces all the way to almost the bottom and then stuff the powder in and cook. Yes, those would turn out good too. But, this time when I was making it, my mom came over and she said she'll cut the veggies. I said yeah, sure go ahead and I got into making the stuffing. A few mins later, I turn back and I see this. Darn. Why did I not remember this the last million times I made stuffed eggplants? My mom always cuts the eggplants into almost 16 partitions and not 4!! You can imagine how the flavor of the stuffing would reach the insides of the eggplants! All the way inside..all the way around. No thick layers, but all thin and tender and still a whole eggplant when cooked and completely flavorful. That's when I decided I will blog about this so that all of you reading can also try stuffed eggplants this way and see the difference for yourselves!
So cut the veggies and stuff it well with as much stuffing as you can get inside without ripping the poor thing apart.
And here's how I like to cook them.
Take the widest pan you have in your kitchen. Heat the pan. Add about 1 tbsp of oil. Swirl the oil all around the pan so that the pan is evenly coated with oil.
Now, turn the heat to simmer.
Then, place the little eggplants starting from the edges and move towards the center of the pan. Try your best to get a pan that can hold all the eggplants in a snug fit! Like mine here.
Now, be patient. Let this cook in simmer. Keep the pan covered and let the steam cook the veggies too.
After about 7-8 mins, when you think the bottoms would have cooked well, gently turn each eggplant to its side. Let it cook on this side for a few mins. Again, keep it covered and in simmer. Add a few drops on oil on top ...just to make it more tasty - no other scientific reasons!
Now, using a skewer or even a toothpick, gently rotate the eggplant so that you introduce a new side to the heat. You can poke right at the center to get a strong hold of each one to rotate. Once again, let this side cook for a few mins, covered and in simmer. Follow this step until you think all sides have cooked well.
Do not use a spatula or karandi to turn these over. Be really gentle with them so you don't break them up. They have a heart too - be nice.
You will actually start seeing some sides getting a good roast. This is where we start doing the so called taste testing - essentially, that means I've run out of patience and I start eating these...first start with one, then a couple in a spoon, and then a few in a cup. Finally by the time this comes to the table, there are only a few pieces left!
When you taste and think its all done including the center is fully cooked, switch off the stove, drag a chair near the stove, sit on it and start eating this right from the pan. Who cares where you eat your food?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the fruit of my labor - The most delicious tenderly cooked Stuffed Baby Eggplant. Look at it quick because it will be gone in a min.
Here's my new thali plate that I bought from a friend who sells these here. I absolutely love these plates and use it on any occasion I get to feed more than 3 people! You can see our partial menu for the day here below - pearl onion sambar, rice, baby potatoes fry, stuffed baby eggplant and spinach with daal. Looks like the theme of the day was baby vegetables! And then we had rasam and dahi and pickles too!
If any of you in the LA/OC area are interested to get these plates, let me know. I'll provide you her details! These are really heavy stainless steel thali plates. They are dishwasher safe too but I prefer hand washing them.
Of course, I have to leave you with another parting shot of the juicy tenderness!
Enjoy! Peace Out!