Friday, August 29, 2008

Stuffed! And Charred!

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.


  1. I know many who swear that food just isn't right until it's cooked with copious amounts of oil. The stuffed brinjal curry looks delicious and I can see why you loved the charred taste of those spices :)

  2. I don't understand the point of oily foods either. I think oil removes the real taste of any vegetable or food and just leaves the greasy taste behind.

    The eggplant dish look delicioso!

  3. Looks tasty, Sra. And we love brinjals. This is on next week's list :)

  4. sra, its been a while since I deep fried anything in oil,but agreed stuffed brinjal tastes best when deep fried else how are things with you?

  5. I don't think about how little oil I use till I see someone else pouring oil into the pan.. I do love deep fried food, but done at the right temperature, and with adequate paper-towel draining, there won't be any oil dripping out of those... For all other types of cooking, I go with the minimum amount of oil necessary... there is nothing more unappetizing than oil-dripping food...

    Eggplants look yummy btw, and I do think some foods taste better charred.. not burned, but the state just before that :)

  6. Nice entry, Sra. I like the term guest cook.

  7. My mom makes this really well and she also makes it slightly dry. Anyways good recipe.

  8. I love brinjal even it is steamed! Gosh this one looks yum yum :)

  9. I am one who still believes the more the oil the more yummy it tastes...I once had a close extended family member sit with tissues during meals at my place to sponge the excess oil or ghee!!!I have reduced though the amount though!! :)

  10. looks nice...:-),..nd nice name too

  11. I was wondering who was stuffed and what was charred! :) Btw which community is it that seems to have made a hallmark cuisine of burning food?
    This is one dish that I have tried making a few times and it never turned out well. I'm beginning to think that i must have tried reducing the oil in the recipe.:D
    Your eggplant curry looks very good.

  12. lovely! i love brinjal so this is surely a must-try!

  13. Laavanya, thank you! I know such people as well but this status bit amazed me! ... But not really, come to think of it :)
    Kay, I know many people think brinjal and dondakai (tindora/ivy gourd) are not tasty without oil, but not other veggies ...
    A & N, so will you let me know how it worked?
    Sreelu, meeru bagunnara, I'm well. I've never deep-fried brinjal, you know, the amount of oil I've used in this is bad enough! :)
    Sig, these people used to make gravies with half an inch of oil above them!
    Jayashree, that's what they were, I didn't know what else to call them.
    Vidya, okay, when's Aunty coming over next?
    Cham, really? You must be the exception! Even I confess to liking it only when there's a certain amount of oil in it, maybe I should try steaming it and then frying it in 1 tsp of oil ;)
    Rachel!!! She/he must have been really close to do that!
    Notyet, thanks a lot!
    Aparna, now the answer to that will out me, tho' I'm 99% sure they don't follow blogs! ;)
    Nags, I came to like brinjal only as a grown-up!

  14. Sra,
    bharwan baigan( stuffed brinjal) is what it is called in UP cuisine , and I just love it .covering and cooking at low with less oil turns out great even .
    hugs and smiles

  15. Why waste a bucket of oil when u can do with a thimbleful?Oil in the right quantities is so good with certain foods.. yeah brinjal loves oil!
    stuffed and fried..i bet this tastes luscious!!

  16. Very interesting about the special cook's cooking style. I'd love a taste of your eggplant. Very enticingly made. Yum!


  17. Ha ha, I know some people who think the food tastes better with surplus amount of oil. I love this stuffed eggplant curry where you have used just 3 tsp oil. Looks so delicious and tempting Sra!

  18. mmmmmm....i have to confess..i do love oily curries..when i used to audit in voltas..i used to love their mess food...all greasy and yummy ;) wonder my butt got so big....


    and thnks for the explanation about non-veg food in the previous makes sense...

  19. I love these stuffed brinjals Sra! Also my appa's favorite version! I love thm with a rasama and rice and they are most suitable for a saturday brunch after a nice oil bath :)

  20. Looks tasty the last pic so much..hope to try this soon :)

  21. actually ground some that must be something...:)...that not to close to stir fry looks yummy!..:0)..I am sure it tasted great..abt oil..well cooks tend to mask their cooking skills with the assumption that more oil makes it you are not left complaining their food right!..

  22. i cant. i have this allergy to too much oil. start getting stressed when i see it.

  23. That sure looks good Sra - brinjals particularly taste good when charred. I've seen those dishes with inches of oil above them - just the sight makes me lose my appetite. I know people who normally don't use lots of oil and ghee, going overboard when cooking for guests. I wonder if it's the same reasoning you gave for serving guests meat in your previous post's comments.


  24. Jaya, even lesser than 3 tsp? That's great. I'll try it next time.
    Mallugirl, it was luscious!
    Paz, yeah, saw the rest of the comments? Oil is somewhat like the egg story I told you ...
    Uma, don't we all know such people! Thanks.
    Rajitha, yeah, I wanted to add that the thing about meat, apology etc - we shouldn't be seen as stinting on expense with guests!
    Ni, I do know what you're saying. Lovely scene you painted.
    Priti, do try, it's worth it.
    Valli, you know me too well - about the grinding! LOL! This too much oil is a state of mind more than anything else, I think
    Cynic, I know, but this is just 3 tsp for about a dozen brinjals, can't be too bad, can it?
    Mamatha, yeah, I guess you can't be seen as stinting on expense for your guests.

  25. Very nice! Thanks for participating.
    Sra, I actually did not get an email from you: did you send it?

  26. Wow something new to make out, Nice click of flowers.

  27. poor sra. doesn't get the point of grease. i don't either. but what do we know, eh?