We once had a guest cook. She was with us only for a few weeks. She told me that in her community, known for some royal and other feudal entities, the use of copious amounts of oil proclaimed their status, and hence no one, rich or poor, would skimp on that.
The food made by cooks from that household (who would visit us on and off) was, for the most part, tasty, but literally dripping with oil or soaked in it. I would squeeze a fistful of food right in front of their eyes, make my point, take triumphant delight in their embarrassed smiles, and get on with the eating. The oil could have added to the taste, I don't really know, but their frying left a lot to be desired. Their stir fries of many vegetables would be charred black, beyond crisp, spices and other food matter coming off in black specks, and I would wonder what the point was.
Recently, I got hold of a recipe for stuffed brinjals (eggplant) from an aunt, and in a rare fit of unlaziness, decided to go the whole hog with the grinding of the paste, etc as I had all the ingredients. It called for grinding a handful of coriander and some spices, mixing them up with onions, stuffing the eggplants and frying them on a slow simmer - the result is a wonderfully stuffed and almost (but not quite) charred mixture that almost has me wanting to taste those stir fries to see if I had missed discovering something then.
Here's the recipe!
Small, round purple brinjals/eggplant: 1/4 kg or about 10-12
(Make a 'plus' (+) sign with the knife on the bald side of the brinjal and cut through, into four, but not so deep that the pieces separate. You should be able to hold them with the stalk. Drop into a bowl of salted water while you're doing the rest.)
Onion: 1, big, minced as fine as possible
Coriander leaves: 2 cups
Green chillies: 2, chopped
Red Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Garlic: 3-4 cloves
Ginger: 1/2-inch knob
Salt, to taste
Coriander powder: 1/2 - 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1/2-1 tsp
Oil: 3-4 tsp
Mustard seed: 1/2 tsp
Cumin seed: 1/2 tsp
Urad dal/Split, hulled black gram: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 6-8 (optional)
Without adding much water, grind the coriander, green chillies, garlic, ginger and other spices to a rough paste.
Mix this with the onion.
Stuff the brinjals with this mixture. Reserve the leftover paste.
In a pan (a non-stick works well for this), heat the oil, and once it's heated, turn the knob into 'Simmer' mode.
Season with mustard, cumin, curry leaf and black gram.
Place the brinjals. Pour any remaining mixture over them. Let sizzle for half a minute and cover.
Keep checking and turning the brinjals around, very, very gently. If you think it needs more oil, add a drop or two around each brinjal that seems to require it. Ensure they get cooked and soft on all sides - for signs of doneness, you can check the picture. It should be a bit squishy. And the mixture inside and outside the brinjals should be a crusty green-brown.
This is most delicious with soft, hot rice or fresh thick curds.
I'm sending this to Marta's event Fresh Produce of the Month being hosted by Simona of Briciole in September.
Brinjal/eggplant Coriander Vegetarian